Speed Up Urban Sewage Reclamation Process

With the biggest population in the world, China has very limited per capita water capability. The increasingly serious water shortage has exerted adverse effect on economic and social development. On the other hand, among the annual sewage discharge of over 80 billion cubic meters, only 6 percent or 13.7 million cubic meters is released into lakes and rivers after some sewage treatment. Thus wastewater contaminates lakes and rivers, and results in a further water shortage crisis. To deal with this vicious circle, Cheng Peijin, vice-minister of science and technology, concurrently member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, has proposed to speed up urban sewage reclamation process to relieve China's water crisis.

In order to counter water shortage, many countries have begun to reclaim urban wastewater as secondary water source. More than 80 percent of urban wastewater is recycled. Compared to what is involved in exploring a new water source and long distance water-piping, wastewater reclamation is more practical and economical.

As for China, a gradual and planned wastewater reclamation effort made according to China's specific conditions will be a scientific and rational measure to fully utilize water as well as an important way to ensure the smooth operation of sewage treatment system and to eliminate water pollutant.

Up to now, however, sewage reclamation has not been incorporated into regional plans for water resource exploration and utilization. A water resource management and control system covering from water source exploration, integrated recycling, water treatment monitoring and control has not taken shape.

In developed countries, funding for sewage plants is paid by the state and fund for operating the water treatment plants comes from users. But in China, a paid water treatment system has not been established and fund for the construction and operation of sewage plants is in short supply. Moreover there are not enough facilities for using purified water, which also constitutes an obstacle to the sewage reclamation process.

Cheng Jinpei suggests that local water departments should make sewage reclamation program part of their urban water resource utilization plans. Non-traditional water resource exploitation and utilization such as urban sewage recycling should be greatly encouraged.

1. Overall arrangement and rational planning

In drought-stricken cities, urban sewage treatment programs should be incorporated into sewage reclamation. A rational sewage treatment facility layout and sewer network should be arranged according to different purposes of reutilization of reclaimed water. Sewage treatment facilities should be closely connected with the recycled water usage facilities.

2. Strengthen management mechanism, improve rules and regulations

A sustainable utilization of water resource depends on the improvement of management mechanism and the support of policies and laws.

A complete water utilization system, including water pumping and discharge license system, water utilization and environmental auditing system, water wasting and contamination punishment system, is necessary to fulfill the goal of "planned utilization, appropriate extraction, quota supply, water efficiency reward and water wasting punishment, environment improvement and pollution controlling". Cheng Jinpei also proposes to include sewage reclamation ratio into the appraisal system of comprehensive environment improvement in urban areas.

3. Expand investment in sewage reclamation, establish a rational water pricing mechanism

To raise more funds, the authorities should encourage and direct funds from different sources in society and from abroad to the construction and operation of sewage treatment and re-use facilities.

The current standard for the fee of sewage treatment should be raised and the fee collection system should be strengthened. More agricultural and industrial enterprises should be encouraged to use more reclaimed water if it meets their standards. Wastewater treatment funds should be used exclusively to operate and maintain the sewer network and sewage treatment plants in a bid to establish an integrated management system for sewage discharge and treatment.

4. Tighten supervision, rationally reclaim and use treated water

Water resource departments should revise, supplement and launch new water standards for the use of different types of reclaimed water to guarantee water quality.

Environmental protection and construction departments should closely monitor the water treatment projects.

Reclaimed water used in agriculture and industry must be checked frequently according to relevant water quality standards.

(CIIC 03/12/2001)