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Cisterns secure drinking water in SW China

By Jiao Meng (

13:09, August 08, 2011

Liu Meiqin turned on the tap of a 30-cubic-meter cistern and began to wash vegetables in a bucket. (Jiao Meng)

Liu Meiqin, a 39-year-old farmer in Qianshan, a village in southwest China's Guizhou Province, turned on the tap of a 30-cubic-meter cistern and began to wash vegetables in a bucket.

"It's so convenient. I used to make an hour-long trip up a mountain two kilometers away just to fill a 20-kilogram basket of water," Liu said. "I had to go there twice a day to meet my family's needs. Now, in winter and spring, this cellar is enough for both my family and my livestock. And it only cost me about 1,000 yuan (US$155)."

The cistern is one of 12,804 water tanks built in Hezhang County last year. They were named the Tongxin Water Reservoirs by the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee. They will solve drinking water problems for 53,833 farmers in the county.

The project, valued at 72 million yuan (US$11.19 million), got 50 million yuan of its funding from the department.

The reservoirs are one of the latest experimental efforts to prevent severe droughts like the one that brought misery and crop failure to Bijie Prefecture, the area surrounding Qianshan, from September 2009 to April 2010.

At that time, over 4 million people suffered a lack of drinking water, and some 5.8 million mu (388,600 hectares) of crops were stricken by drought, according to data provided by the Bijie Water Resources Bureau.

Easing drought this year

The Bijie Meteorological Observatory issued an orange warning on drought on Aug. 2.

Observatory head Nie Xiang said the drought will continue, but the conditions will not be as bad as last year. "Since April, rainfall in this prefecture has been less than usual," he said. "Seeding was delayed for 20 days this year, and scattered showers only bring 10 to 20 millimeters of rainfall each."

"Cisterns have eased drought in our county," said Chen Zhengguang, vice director of the Hezhang County Water Resources Bureau. "Farmers who have built cellars do not have so many problems with their water supply."

"But there are still 30,000 to 40,000 farmers and 20,000 to 30,000 farm animals that lack drinking water," Chen added. "I hope this project will be extended to cover all the remote villages in the near future."


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