To have clean and cheap drinking water was once a long-term dream for many residents living in Zhongmu County in central Henan Province, that is, before a water supply project started in 2006.
42-year-old Wang Jianniu turns the tap off in his yard on Saturday, March 14, 2009. All the residents in Qiancheng Village, Zhongmu County, in central Henan Province have used clean tap water as a result of the county's large-scale 'safe drinking water' program. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]
When turning the tap off in his yard, 42-year-old villager Wang Jianniu says he will never forget the filthy water his family lived with for decades.
"The water was yellow and had a terrible taste. We could even sometimes see small particles in the water we took from the wells. But now the tap water is clean and tastes really good, sweet and cool."
Wang's family, along with many other households in Qiancheng Village, began using the clean tap water two years ago as a result of the county's large-scale 'safe drinking water' program.
The initiative started in 2005 with the aim of constructing a county-wide network within five years to supply clean water to over 200 thousand residents throughout its 180 villages.
Zhu Dalin, the vice director of the county's water conservancy department, says the project has helped more than 120 thousand people get rid of saline in the water since 2008, while the remaining 80,000 will be able to drink clean tap water within two years.
The Zhongmu County, with a population of about 700,000, is located near the southern bank of the Yellow River, the second longest river in China, and just some dozens of kilometres east of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province.
Zhu said although the Yellow River brings abundant water resources to the county, the shallow underground water there was severely contaminated in the past. "Due to the county's special position, the shallow underground water there was heavily polluted by both the sewage from Zhengzhou City and the water from the Yellow River which contained many impurities." Excessive fluorine was also found in the county's shallow underground water that further threatened the health of the local people, who are not able to drill deep wells by themselves, Zhu added.
In order to avoid fluorine poisoning through drinking the water, the local government has decided to build ten water plants over the next few years which can pump up and purify the deep underground water.
"Four water treatment plants have been built with a daily water supply capacity of 10,000 tons each. 100 thousand residents have used the purified water that will cover the whole county when they are completed."
The water treatment plants are controlled by computers and the operation of one plant requires less than 20 workers, Zhu said, adding the only task of the workers is to monitor whether the system is working normally.
Besides the health benefits and convenience of using this water, local residents are also satisfied with the acceptable price which is less than 0.8 yuan (about 11.4 US cents) per tonnage.
Wang Shuming, also from Qiancheng Village, has three family members. He says his family usually spends less than 20 yuan on water per month, although they wash clothes and take showers at home often.
Wang is also content with the easy water fee recharging method via a pre-paid IC card.
"The workers usually come to help me recharge the card as soon as I phone them and the recharging is completed as soon as I insert the card into the reader."
Zhu Dalin said in addition to efforts being made to increase the supply of clean water, the local government has urged all residents to save water, while manufacturers and farmers are also being encouraged to cut their water consumption.
(CRI March 16, 2009)