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Announced "new" tests can't cork water distrust

(Xinhua)

09:15, July 03, 2012

BEIJING, July 2 (Xinhua) -- China began adopting new standards concerning drinking water quality on July 1, but authorities' admission that they will not be fulfilled until 2015 has given rise to public doubts and deepened mistrust in the system.

By the end of 2015, 106 water quality indices, up from 35 previously, will be measured in all provincial capitals and municipalities. The new standards also particularly beef up checks for microorganisms, heavy metals and organic pollutants, according to Minister of Health Chen Zhu.

Chen said at least 42 indices will be monitored in water quality checks in county-level cities by 2015. He added these regular indices will basically ensure the safety of drinking water.

These standards are hardly new. In fact, they were first adopted on July 1, 2007, after the nation amended its drinking water standards in 2006, but have not been well implemented.

The delay has led some to express discontent online. "The announcement of the new standards is pointless at present because they will not be genuinely implemented until 2015," a netizen named Shao Mingbo posted on Sina, the major Chinese social networking portal.

"From the making of the new standards back in 2006 to its scheduled real implementation in 2015, we have to wait for almost 10 years," another netizen complained in an entry on the portal's Twitter-like service Weibo.

Faced with such criticism, the health minister said that ensuring water quality is a systematic project that involves complicated processes at the water source, then the points of treatment, transmission and quality monitoring.

In light of the renewed concern in water safety following the adoption of the new standards, two citizens in the city of Nanjing in east China sent application forms to 35 water plants located nationwide on Sunday, asking them to provide monitoring data and the indices used in the tests, the Oriental Morning Post reported on Monday.

China plans to invest 410 billion yuan before the end of 2015 to upgrade and construct urban water-providing facilities in a bid to ensure water quality, according to a document jointly released in May by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.

Experts say the investment is likely to solve major problems with tap water in urban regions, but they have questioned how smoothly the plan can be carried out as the funding will basically come from local governments and adjustment of water prices that may have an impact on the public.

A recent report by the State Council, the country's Cabinet, said that around one fifth of tap water checked in cities and county seats last year would not have qualified if measured by the "new" standards. It also estimated water was not up to standards at nearly 14 percent of the nation's water sources.

"A major reason for substandard drinking water is that the water plants' facilities are old in China. More than 95 percent of them were built before the new drinking water standards were established," said Du Ying, a vice minister of the NDRC, China's top economic planner.

Meanwhile, aging water pipes and inadequate management of storage facilities in urban communities are also causing further pollution to the water, said Du.

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