Many Beijing residents have already benefited from the fresh water channeled into the city by a 305 km-long canal from neighboring Hebei province. The water comes from three reservoirs, making up for Beijing's scarce water supply.
So far, the local water supply system has received up to 73 million cubic meters of water, and the quality is up to the state-set standards for drinking water, Zhang Jiyao, head of the Office of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project under the State Council, said in Beijing.
Meanwhile, the improved water supply has not affected Beijing's price of water as many once worried, because its cost has not been taken into the overall consideration of local water pricing, experts with Beijing water authorities confirmed.
This week, the rising price of the local water supply began making headlines in the press. However, experts made it clear that any plan to hike water prices for residents must be done through a public hearing, indicating it may not have direct relation with water from the canal.
The canal is not only a terminal of the middle routes' diversion project, but the first-ever pilot section built along the route that has already been put into operation for the targeted area, Zhang said at a ceremony, in which a group of constructors, engineers and managers received a title as a reward for their outstanding services to the canal.
The canal began to supply water to Beijing last September and was scheduled to bring about 300 million cubic meters of water into Beijing in the following months.
"It's the better environmental protection made by Hebei and Beijing water authorities along the canal that has ensured the water quality for Beijing residents using the water from Hebei today," he said.
Zhang urged them to further improve their protection of the water this year and prevent any contamination from being caused along the canal.
"Cautions against emergency water pollution along the canal should be well-prepared to ensure that only uncontaminated water flow into Beijing’s water supply works in the months to come," he said.
"This is one of the most significant factors we have to further intensify that more individual projects will be kicked off one after another this year along the eastern and central routes of the diversion scheme, with newly added investment from the central government," Zhang added.
To gear up construction of these new projects, the State Council has allocated 2 billion yuan ($292 million) since late last year in the hopes of expanding domestic demands to cope with a possible economic slump caused by the global financial crisis.
To date, much of the fund has been budgeted for new individual projects, including a group of water pollution-control projects, experts with Zhang's office said.
The colossal South-to-North Water Diversion Project, consisting of the eastern, middle and western routes, will divert water from the water-rich south of the country, mainly the Yangtze River, the country's longest, to the dry north.
Both of the eastern and middle routes are already under construction. The western route, meant to replenish the Yellow River with water diverted from the upper reaches of the Yangtze River by creating huge tunnels in the high mountains of western China, is still in the blueprint stages.
Construction for the first phase of the two routes was officially launched six years ago. Since then, up to 39 projects were under construction, involving an accumulated investment of 48 billion yuan ($7 billion), with 66 percent already completed.
According to Zhang's office, completion of the first phase of the east and central lines is scheduled for 2013 and 2014 respectively. By then, it is expected that the northern provinces and surrounding areas will have their chronic water supply shortages largely eased up, and that economic growth will have pushed ahead with the help of more freshwater from the south.