When residents turn on their taps at the end of the year, they may not realize the water spouting out is actually from a reservoir more than 200 kilometers away, rather than the Songhua River which passes through the city.
Thanks to a water project, the first phase of which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, Harbin's long-awaited goal of providing backup water sources will gradually come true, reducing some of the city's dependency on the river.
Relying on a single water source currently leaves Harbin in a difficult situation.
A chemical plant blast along the upper reaches of the Songhua River, which spilled about 100 tons of toxic chemicals into the water, forced the city which has a population of around 3.8 million to suspend water supplies for four days in November, inflicting huge economic losses.
But the situation is likely to be greatly relieved with the completion of the Mopan (millstones) Mountain water project, said Liu Yurun, president of Harbin Water Supply and Discharge Group.
The project will bring water from the Mopan Mountain Reservoir in Wuchang County, which has a maximum capability of more than 450 million cubic meter more than 200 kilometers to Harbin.
Dense forest near the reservoir ensures good surrounding water conditions, said Liu.
The project is one of the largest in the city's history, with total investment estimated at 5.3 billion yuan (US$662 million).
The first phase will involve building a nearly 180-kilometer-long pipeline, a water processing plant with a capability of 450,000 cubic meter per day and an inner city water transportation network with a total length of more than 100 kilometer
"We are just a few hundred meters from the final closure of the pipelines," said Liu.
A concrete dam, more than 320 meters high, has been erected to store water in the reservoir and recent rain has brought the water level to 301 meters.
By the end of the year, residents in five of the city's seven districts are expected to taste their first Mopan water.
The second phase of the project, which is similar to the first, is expected to be completed by 2010.
By then, 900,000 cubic meters of water from the reservoir will meet the drinking water needs of the city, while water from the Songhua River, will serve as complementary drinking water and for industrial use, said Liu.
"The reservoir water is definitely better than the river water, which has been contaminated by the chemical plants in its upper reaches for a long time," said Li Xinglong, senior engineer from the Heilongjiang Provincial Environmental Science Institute.
The State Environment Protection Administration has listed the Songhua River as one of China's most heavily polluted rivers and in need of urgent treatment following last year's crisis.
(China Daily June 27, 2006)