Beijing siphons water from neighbour

A water shortage in Beijing is to be quenched with water piped from the neighbouring Hebei province, which has been suffering from its own drought for months.

The diversion of 300 million cubic metres of water began on Thursday morning and the water will take ten days to arrive in the Chinese capital.

Beijing has had nine successive years of drought and a growing population is putting ever-more pressure on the city’s water supply.

Since 1999 the city and the aquifer from which it draws its water has received only three quarters of the rainfall it would usually expect, calling into question the value of using past precipitation to asccurately predict that in the future as the climate changes.

The shortage in Beijing is set to reach crisis point in 2010, when the population is expected to top 17 million, or 3 million more than its resources can support.

According to state figures, even with additional supply from the Yangtze River channeled to Beijing by an ongoing south-to-north water diversion project, the city’s supplies will not meet demand.

In order to reach some kind of equilibrium, the city needs to reduce its water consumption per capita by around a third – a tough challenge.

While Hebei province has also been affected by drought in recent years, officials say that the region can afford to supply Beijing with the extra water on this occasion due to higher than expected rainfall and a massive engineering project involving a series of dams and canals for the transport and storage of water.

Hebei will receive compensation for bailing out Beijing, though details have been kept vague with officials telling state owned media only that it would be a three-part package and that the province has received the first payment.

Details of the size of those payments are being kept under wraps.

Sam Bond

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