Despite introducing water from the Luanhe River and other sources, Tianjin, with an average annual rainfall of 575 millimeters, has only 370 cubic meters of water available per capita, which is far lower than the alert of 1,000 cubic meters recognized internationally.
The sustained drought in the Haihe River drainage area since 1997 forced the city to divert water from the Yellow River in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004.
The water shortage has taken something of a stranglehold and is affecting development and the daily life of the city. However, the shortage has seen various water-saving initiatives adopted in the area.
The city has released a string of regulations such as the Water-saving Enterprises Standards and Regulations on Water Utilization Plan of Construction Projects to prevent enterprises from misusing water.
In the Tianjin Development Zone, the reuse rate of water utilized by industry reached 90 percent last year. As a result, a yield of 10,000 yuan output value only consumes 6 cubic meters of water, only one twelfth of the national average level. The Tianjin Alkali Factory reduced waste discharges by 90 percent by using seawater for cooling purposes. And the Tianjin Steel Company reuses 97 percent of their industrial water.
The government is also promoting public awareness of conservation through the mass media and by starting programs identifying water-saving stars and blasting the “wasters”.
“Before the project of introducing water from the Luanhe River, we had to drink bitter and salty water and we know that the water we use nowadays is hard-earned and are fully aware of the importance of saving water,” said Liu Jianrong, a resident in Baodeli community in Hexi District of Tianjin.
In Liu’s neighborhood, reinstallation of water-saving facilities was completed last year. All the 9 and 12 liter flush toilets have been replaced by those of just 6 liters. And tap faucets sealed with ceramic have replaced those having secure rubber pads.
“The new facilities are not only convenient but also water-saving indeed,” said Liu. Once suspicious about the project, Liu is now convinced that it works. It’s estimated that water consumption can be cut by as much as 20 percent.
To date, a total of 14 old communities in Tianjin have had reinstallation completed. And communities constructed after 2001 are all equipped with modern devices.
Apartments in Meijiang Fangshui Garden of the Hexi District are equipped with three water supply systems – drinking water, recycled water and ordinary tap water. The monthly consumption of Li Shaoqin’s household, one of the local residents, includes approximately three tons of ordinary tap water and five tons of recycled water. Since the price of recycled water is much lower than that of the normal supply, Li now spends less on water fees than before.
Even so, Li continues to rack her brains on how to save more water. She uses a twin-tub washing machine and a double-button flushing toilet, saving water after washing vegetables for flushing and mopping the floor with the water flowing out of the washer. “I do this not only for saving money but also saving water,” Li said. Most of her neighbors are practicing the same principles, she explained.
The saving water is also being followed through on the college campus. Two years ago Tianjin University of Finance and Economics introduced systems in public areas to measure the amount of water being used by students.
The university provides 150 liters of free boiled water every month and students have to pay for any extra they require. Students also have to pay for taking showers on a minute rate. It’s estimated that at least 165 liters of water is being saved each day in the university’s public bathrooms.
There’s also the “price lever” which encourages residents to save water. The government has adjusted the price of running water seven times since 1997. The price of drinking water has increased from 0.68 yuan per ton to 3.4 yuan. Non-drinking water costs 5.6 yuan per ton while water consumption for special industries costs 20 yuan per ton. The price of recycled water ranges from 1.1 yuan to 1.8 yuan per ton according to usage.
(China.org.cn by Huang Shan, October 7, 2006)