The authorities need to push ahead with a price hike, reflecting accurately the growing shortage of water in China and help plug further depletion of the resource, an official has said.
"We must set up a rational water pricing system adapted to the country's severe shortage of water. So some cities will face a sharp rise in water prices," Hu Siyi, vice-minister of water resources, told the Beijing Times on Sunday.
The average domestic water price in 36 large and medium-sized cities last year was 3.77 yuan (55 US cents) per ton, an annual increase of 4.7 percent, latest official statistics showed.
"But the price does not reflect the current situation of the severe water shortage plaguing the country, leading to water wastage and pollution," Hu said, adding that the needs of lower-income residents and industrial usage would be factored in while deciding on the price hike.
In Beijing, authorities have kept water prices at 3.7 yuan per ton, unchanged since 2004, following an increase of 0.8 yuan per ton for household water, official figures showed.
Wang Hao, director of the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, feels water prices in the capital should be at least 11.42 yuan per ton.
Water pricing reform in Beijing is under review and a public forum on any price hike will take place this year, the Beijing municipal commission of development and reform confirmed yesterday.
In 2008, there was a shortage of 40 billion tons, affecting nearly two thirds of the cities in China. About 300 million people were exposed to unsafe drinking water, according to the Ministry of Water Resources. As a result, beginning from November, China faced its worst drought since 1951, affecting 299 million mu (20 million hectares) farmland and leaving 4.42 million people short of water, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
Of the 4 trillion yuan stimulus package, Hu said, 20 billion yuan was spent to provide safe drinking water in rural areas and construction of projects. About 7 billion yuan was invested in water resources projects in Liaoning, Jilin and Gansu provinces and another 700 million yuan will help construct water use programs near the capital.
"Simply raising water price cannot solve the water shortage problem in the long run. The government should encourage innovation in water conservation, reuse and recycle," Ma Jun, director of Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told China Daily.
"I do not think it is a good idea to raise water price. I save water every day. It is the factories who are wasting our water," Wang Shu, a Beijing resident for 67 years, said.