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Potable seawater to flow soon

(Global Times)

10:38, March 18, 2013

Beijing is likely to begin piping in desalinated seawater from the Bohai Sea in three years, says the State-owned Beijing Enterprises Water Group Limited, claiming that it has mastered the core technology of seawater desalination.

"The water meets all the 106 indices listed in the national water quality standards and has a higher degree of safety than the tap water Beijing is using now," said Zhang Yilan, manager of the seawater desalination department of the group, the Beijing Daily reported Saturday.

The project is in Caofeidian in Tangshan, Hebei Province. Water will be transported 270 kilometers to Beijing through underground pipes through Tangshan, Tianjin and Langfang in Hebei Province, the report said.

The project is expected to reach a capacity of 1 million tons daily in three years, which equals one third of the daily water consumption in Beijing. The cost for the water is around 4.5 yuan ($0.72) per ton, plus a transportation cost of 2.5 to 3.5 yuan, almost double the current water price in Beijing. The group said the project won't affect water prices for Beijing residents because it only constitutes part of the water supply, according to the Beijing Daily report.

Wang Zhexiao, a water resource expert in Beijing, said while seawater desalination is a meaningful way to diversify the water supply, the fundamental solution for alleviating Beijing's water shortage is to promote the coordinated development model in the greater Beijing area.

"Beijing doesn't border the sea so it doesn't have the geographic advantage. And the severe water shortage problem is caused by the over-expansion of the city. The population of Beijing has far surpassed the capacity it can bear," he said.

Other experts said desalinated water is likely not as nutritious.

Ma Jun, director of the NGO Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, said desalinated water might be purer than tap water, but it is not as healthy as traditional sources because the desalination process destroys most beneficial minerals found in drinking water.

"It's similar to purified water. After the distillation, there are almost no minerals left in the water. Using reverse osmosis technology, only a little will be left," he told the Global Times.

"With the development of technology, the cost for seawater desalination is getting lower, but the water desalination process and the transportation cost energy and money. I think the fundamental way to solve Beijing's water shortage is not to increase supply, as we have been doing over the years, but encourage water conservation and recycling," he said.

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