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Cities to fight water shortage with new policies

(China Daily)

10:53, September 03, 2011

BEIJING - At a time when water is becoming scarcer in Chinese cities, golf courses, car washes and bathhouses will soon be subject to new policies meant to prevent them from wasting that essential resource.

Qiu Baoxing, deputy minister of housing and urban-rural development, said many cities are experiencing water shortages because they have failed to strike a balance between achieving prosperity and protecting the environment.

"These cities' governments haven't adopted policies or issued development plans that have the goal of conserving water," he told a national conference on Friday.

Xie Zhenhua, deputy head of the National Development and Reform Commission, warned that water shortages are restraining China's development.

Xie said all government departments should in the next three years obtain equipment that can be used to conserve water. By doing so, he said, they will be setting a good example for other public institutions.

Xie said the period of China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) will see the adoption of more policies aimed at conserving water at bathhouses, car washes and golf courses.

"The owners of these places now have to pay a higher price for using tap water at their businesses," said Fu Tao, director of Tsinghua University's water policy research center. "Tap water shouldn't be used to wash vehicles."

In 2004, the central government issued a moratorium on the construction of golf courses. The goal was to prevent water from being wasted, farmland from being encroached on and the environment from being polluted.

"But these policies were not put into effect strictly enough, meaning water was still being wasted in these industries," Fu said.

Car washes, golf courses and similar businesses have been encouraged to use recycled wastewater, especially in Beijing, said Wang Huizhen, a retired professor at the Beijing University of Civil Engineering.

"Car washes could use recycled wastewater at a cost of 1 yuan (15 cents) for each ton of it, which is much cheaper than the price of tap water," Wang said. "Actually, recycling wastewater costs more than the price that is charged, but the government subsidizes the project in the hope of preventing water from being wasted."

With the current emphasis on conserving water, those who want to open bathhouses, which must use tap water, will find it more difficult to win government approvals for their projects, she said.

To date, the central government has deemed 57 cities to be "water-saving cities" for their work in conserving water.

Qiu said the country made huge progress in conserving water during the period of its 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010). In China, 365 liters of water were used per capita each day in 2010, which was 30 percent less than in 2000.

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