China / Society

Desalinated water to be piped into Beijing by 2019

By ZHENG JINRAN in Caofeidian, Hebei (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-18 02:09

Beijing is planning to pipe in desalinated water from the port of Caofeidian in Hebei province to meet increased demand.

Under the desalination project, 1 million metric tons of drinking water a day will be produced from nearby Bohai Bay.

Supplies will be piped to Beijing, and are expected to satisfy one-third of demand in 2019. Caofeidian is under the city of Tangshan's jurisdiction.

Zhang Guibao, deputy district head, confirmed that the project has been approved by the Hebei provincial government and that preliminary research has been carried out.

Wang Xiaoshui, the manager in charge of the project under the Beijing Enterprises Water Group, said, "We are preparing the necessary plans for review and evaluation by the national planning authority."

He said the project is expected to be approved by the National Development and Reform Commission next year after passing the review.

Construction of a related factory and pipelines will take two to three years.

Investment in the project may reach 17 billion yuan ($2.7 billion), with 10 billion yuan going for construction of pipelines running 270 km through Tangshan and Ji, a county in Tianjin, before reaching Beijing.

The final design of the pipeline is still being discussed, Wang said.

The desalination project will feature a combination of heating and reverse osmosis techniques to process the water.

The Beijing group involved in the project launched a pilot desalination project in Caofeidian in March 2012 to provide 5 tons of drinking water to the district every day.

Zhang Haiyan, a worker on the pilot project who lives in Caofeidian and uses desalinated water every day, says it is processed to meet 108 quality indicators, and it tastes just like regular tap water.

Water produced under the pilot project costs about 6 yuan a ton, but this will rise to about 8 yuan when Beijing comes onboard, due to increased costs from the pipeline construction.

While the total investment is large and the water price a little higher than the current daily domestic charge of about 4 yuan a ton, many believe the project is much needed.

Daily water supplies for Beijing, which is home to more than 20 million people, exceeded 2.98 million tons last year, almost reaching municipal water supply capacity, according to statistics from the Beijing Water Authority. Annual per capita water supply for Beijing residents dropped to 100 cubic meters, far below the 1,000 cubic meters threshold set by the United Nations.

Experts believe that, faced with increasing demand for water, Beijing must expand supply through multiple channels, and Bohai Bay is a viable source.

The capital has also taken steps to adjust water pricing to manage consumption.

It is conducting a hearing as part of measures to increase the price by about 1 yuan. Publicized plans state that households will pay between about 5 yuan and 9 yuan per ton, based on annual consumption.

The announcement, by Beijing's development and reform commission, said current pricing does not reflect the shortage of water resources.

The city needs a new pricing system, under which charges rise according to the amount of water consumed, to encourage rational use, the commission said.

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