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  • Availability: Does the country have plenty of drinking water or is it scarce?
  • Infrastructure: How widespread is access to safe drinking water and sanitation? What condition are pipes and sewers in?
  • Water usage: What is drinking water in this country used for? How much does every person use per day?
  • Projects: What projects regarding drinking water (supply or demand management) are planned, on-going or completed in this country?
  • Opportunities and threats: What are the biggest problems facing this country in the future? What is being done to solve them?
  • Norms and regulations: How is drinking water regulated? Are there efficiency standards for water-using appliances?
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China

China's water comes mostly from aquifers and surface sources. The country has a large number of lakes and rivers. Some of the best-known and longest are:
  • Yangtze (length: 6,300km)
  • Yellow (5,500km)
  • Heilongjiang (4,400km)
  • Pearl (2,200km)
These days, the country is gearing up its technological capabilities for desalination on a grand scale. China is rapidly becoming one of the world's biggest growth markets for desalted water. The latest goal is to quadruple production by 2020. Desalination currently provides 680,000 cubic metres of water per day 1.
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Does the country have plenty of drinking water or is it scarce?

Availability

While the south of China has a relatively high water supply, the densely-populated north is arid and short of water, receiving only 20 per cent of the country’s water supply 1.

Water shortages in Chinese cities

According to the World Bank, 60 per cent of China's 661 cities face seasonal water shortages, and over 100 cities experience severe water constraints 2.
The capital, Beijing, has less than 100 cubic metres per person and year available, and has overdrawn its groundwater supply for many years; as a result, 21 rivers have run dry since 1980 3.

Available water per person: China similar to Tanzania
China’s rate of renewable water per person is low by international comparison at 2060 cubic metres per person and year in 2011, putting it on a par with Afghanistan, Niger and Tanzania 4. To place this in context: when the water supply falls below 1700 cubic metres per person per year, a country is considered water-stressed.

Every year, the Chinese government publishes detailed statistical data on water supply and demand (see box for 2012 figures 5).

Total available water resources
Annual average precipitation
2,841 billion cubic metres
 676 millimetres


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How widespread is access to safe drinking water and sanitation? What condition are pipes and sewers in?

Infrastructure

In 2011, access to an improved water source in China was 92 per cent and access to improved sanitation was 65 per cent 1. In general, access is much more wide-spread in urban than in rural areas.

Increasing wastewater treatment
According to the World Bank, the share of the urban population served by municipal water supply utilities increased from 50 per cent in 1990 to 88 per cent by 2005. Over the same period, wastewater treatment capacity tripled. As of 2006, municipal plants had the capacity to treat 52 per cent of the wastewater generated in urban areas 2.

Widespread leakage
It is estimated that around one fifth of the water produced at Chinese utilities is lost through leaky pipes; the daily loss per kilometre of pipe is 37 cubic metres 3.
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What is drinking water in this country used for? How much does every person use per day?

Water usage

Almost 70 per cent of the water withdrawn in China is used for agricultural purposes. A further 20 per cent is withdrawn to mine, process and consume coal 1.

Due in part to higher tariffs, industrial water demand has decreased by about 30 per cent since 1995. Domestic water use meanwhile has approximately doubled. Since the urban population has also approximately doubled in that time, per person domestic water use has not gone up by much 2. This is surprising because when household incomes increase, as has been the case in China, water use per person usually grows as well.

Water use statistics
According to government statistics for 2012 3, total water consumption in China reached 611.0 billion cubic metres. The changes compared to the previous year were as follows:
  • Domestic water consumption rose by 3.2 per cent.
  • Industrial water use dropped by 0.8 per cent, and agricultural use by 0.5 per cent.
  • Ecological water supplements grew by 7.2 per cent.
  • Water consumption per person was 452 cubic metres, down by 0.4 per cent.

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What projects regarding drinking water (supply or demand management) are planned, on-going or completed in this country?

Projects

The Chinese government has initiated several large-scale projects to address water issues in the country.

China's 12th Five-Year-Plan
The 12th Five-Year-Plan announced in 2011 outlined targets to improve water quality and to manage water more efficiently. That same year, total government spending on water resources management increased significantly to RMB 345.2 billion 1.

Water transfer projects
Large-scale water transfers have long been discussed by the government as a solution to the country's water shortages. One of the largest and best-known, The South-North Water Transfer Project, is being developed primarily to transfer water from the wet south to the arid north. Three separate routes will divert water from the Yangtze into the Yellow, Huai and Hai rivers. Upon completion, 45 cubic kilometres of water per year will be transferred 2. The project has attracted controversy over its enormous cost, environmental implications, and the necessity to relocate people.

Other massive projects include the Three Gorges Project (completed in 2003) and dike construction on the Yangtze River.
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What are the biggest problems facing this country in the future? What is being done to solve them?

Opportunities and Threats

China is already facing challenges to supply sufficient good-quality water to its people. Arid yet densely populated areas invariably suffer from very little water being available per person.

Looking into the future, China’s main challenges regarding water can be summarised as growing demand, and decreasing supply.


Growing demand for water:
  • Demand for water is rising due to a growing population and urbanisation as well as rapid economic growth.
  • WHO figures show that 119 million people in China still lived without access to an improved drinking water source in 2010 1.
  • By 2020, China’s water use is expected to have increased dramatically. This is driven in large part by a 30 per cent projected increase in coal-fired power production 2.
Diminishing potable water supply in China:
  • More than half of China's rivers have disappeared since the 1950s due to overuse; this trend looks set to continue 3.
  • Every river system in China is polluted 4. Industrial and agricultural waste has made some of China's rivers too polluted to use for drinking water and agriculture.
  • In 2005, 300 million Chinese citizens lacked access to safe drinking water 5.
  • The supposedly water-rich South which is set to supply water to the North as part of the South-North Water Transfer project, is already experiencing shortages. Climate change is expected to lead to warming in the Himalayas, so less water will reach rivers in China 6.

Concerns over drinking water quality have recently grown 7. Almost 90 per cent of Chinese cities' underground water is contaminated 8.

One potential remedy is to increase water use efficiency. Currently around 40 per cent of water used by industry is recycled; urban sewerage infrastructure is being neglected 9.


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How is drinking water regulated? Are there efficiency standards for water-using appliances?

Norms and Regulations

According to a guideline published in 2012 by the State Council, the maximum volume of water used in China shall not exceed 670 billion cubic metres in 2020, and 700 billion cubic meters by the end of 2030 1.

The Chinese government has established national standards and specifications regarding the use of water-saving taps, shower outlets etc. in order to protect the environment 2.
Taps Max. 9.0 litres per minute GB25501-2010 Minimum allowable values of water efficiency and efficiency grades for taps
IR taps 6.0 litres per minute
Tap aerators 4.2 litres per minute
Water-efficient showerheads Max. 9.0 litres per minute GB/T23447-2009 Shower outlets for bathing  

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09:44, 16 May 2014watersaving.comSwitzerland
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