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Drought worsens capital water crisis
By Li Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-19 01:24

Aquatic activities at Yuanmingyuan Park, in northwestern Beijing, have been suspended for the first time in history because the lakes are running dry.

The temporary policy marks a growing trend of water shortages across the city created by years of drought and a dwindling supply.

Workers began replenishing water into the lakes Thursday, said Duan Qinglin, deputy head of the management office of the park.

He said the public may not be able to take part in any water activities, such as boating, until mid-April. By that time, the lakes may have been refilled with enough water.

Duan said Beijing has suffered five straight years of drought and the water level of the park has kept on dropping.

The park had to refill the lakes during the winter last year, besides the regular replenishment every spring and summer.

Yuanmingyuan park is not alone.

The Weiming Lake at Peking University is also running dry this spring.

The water level is less than 30 centimetres in some areas of the lake, and a stone carving of a fish that was submerged in the lake before now stands out of the water.

The Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace, the largest in northwestern Beijing, also faces similar problems.

Li Kun, an official with the palace management office, said her office has just refilled it to ensure sightseeing and boating are not disrupted.

Experts say Beijing is in a drought period and the usual water supply of 4 billion cubic metres a year is down to 3.6 billion cubic metres.

As one of China's most populous regions, Beijing's average annual per-capita water availability is only 200-plus cubic metres, about one-32nd of the international average.

The municipal Bureau of Water resources has worked out an emergency water supply plan to cut extra water use beyond the basic consumption needs of residents and key industries.

According to the plan, water for irrigation will be limited in drought years, and the water levels in lakes and some minor industries will also be cut if the situation worsens.

Experts say many areas in the world such as Belgium and Melboume in Australia also have such emergency plans in order to minimize the impact of water shortages to people's daily life.

This year, the thirsty city has also started to limit the development of industries that use high levels of water such as textile and paper making.

Zheng Qiuli, an official with the water resources bureau, said the city is trying to create a larger drinking water supply besides conserving more.

She said rehabilitation of the Guanting Reservoir, the second largest in Beijing, will be finished next year. The water of the reservoir should then be fit for drinking again.

Due to severe pollution in Beijing and neighbouring Shanxi and Hebei provinces, the Guanting Reservoir has not supplied drinking water since 1997.

Moreover, the city will dig two wells at its suburbs this year. The two projects are estimated to provide Beijing with 170 million cubic metres of water every year.

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