Water conservation standards may flow faster in China in the years ahead, as the country moves to quench its thirst for effective measures of preserve the scarce resource.
A landmark set of "Norms of Water Intake" for China's seven most water-intensive industries will take effect next year. The new norms mandate rational and efficient use of water, the Standardization Administration of China said on Friday.
The norms for electric power, iron and steel, petroleum refining, dyeing, paper, beer and alcohol making industries will be followed by a chain of other standards placing ceilings on water intake of more heavy water users, like coal and cement plants, Director Li Zhonghai said.
The standardization is prompted by severe water shortages across the country.
Water availability in China is only about one-fourth of the world's average, and nearly 60 percent of Chinese cities face shortages 16 percent of them serious ones, said Li.
The scarcity is aggravated by a notorious waste of water.
For example, 537 tons of water were used for every 10,000 yuan (US$1,200) worth of gross domestic product in China in 2002, four times as much as the world's average.
Also, the country sees less than 60 percent of its industrial waste water recycled, up to 25 percentage points lower than in advanced countries, Li told a seminar to promote water-conservation standardization in Beijing.
To cope with the water woes, Li's agency has called on enterprises to strictly implement the new national quotas for industrial water consumption.
If carried out properly, the first five of the seven affected industries electric power, iron and steel, petroleum refining, dyeing and paper-making alone may save up to 6 billion tons of water a year, said Xiao Han, another agency official.
The figure represents 17 percent of the total water intake of all industries in China, Xiao said.
The new national quotas for industrial water consumption will push enterprises to improve water-saving technology, and provide a footing to determine the rates for water beyond the set quotas, he said.
In fact, China's lack of water-saving standards is literally more serious than the lack of water as such. "We should strive to create a set of water-saving standards to match the country's need to build a 'resource-saving' society," Li said.
Qian Yi, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said on Friday optimizing the industrial and agricultural structure and developing projects and crops that consume less water is an important way to conserve water.
(China Daily October 16, 2004)