Conservationists are urging the authorities in Guangdong to set up a special water supply group to make better use of drinking water.
The organization would be responsible for co-ordinating the development of water resources in the prosperous Pearl River Delta region and distributing drinking water to Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao.
Wang Jin, a senior engineer from the Pearl River Water Conservation Committee, made the remarks at a seminar in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, yesterday.
The seminar aims to discuss how water resources can be developed in the Pearl River Delta and comes at a time when South China's Guangdong Province is experiencing a drought.
"Guangdong, which used to be struck by floods, will face a shortage of drinking water in a few years unless effective measures can be taken to protect the province's water resources in the near future," Wang warned.
The seminar, that took place on World Water Day, attracted more than 30 government officials and experts from the central government, Guangdong Province and local scientific research institutions.
16 million residents
Drought has affected more than 16 million residents in the province.
In some rural areas, people do not even have enough drinking water while a large number of domestic animals have been killed by the drought.
Drought has also affected prosperous cities in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong, seriously threatening the local economy.
The provincial capital Guangzhou, the Shenzhen and Zhuhai special economic zones and the cities of Huizhou, Dongguan and Zhongshan, have all experienced water shortages since the autumn.
Guangdong was also hit by a serious salt tide last winter. A salt tide is where salty water washes up rivers from river mouths because of low water levels caused by drought.
Wang urged water conservation departments in the province to fight against the scourge.
In addition to putting more money into building water conservation facilities, Wang said the local government would do more to encourage people to save water in the coming years.
He said Guangdong has poor water conservation facilities and cities in the Pearl River Delta do not work together to save water.
Worsening water pollution has also begun to threaten the safety of the province's drinking water, Wang added.
More than 16.75 billion tons of sewage are being discharged into the Pearl River and its tributaries annually without any treatment.
An official from the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Water Conservation said yesterday that his organization has selected three cities as pilot regions to start water-saving experiments later this year.
Meanwhile, the Guangdong provincial government plans to use more artificial rain to fight the drought later this year.
The official attributed less rainfall and the heat wave last summer to the province's worsening drought.
"The battle against drought will be a long-term task for Guangdong," the official said.
To help fight drought and salt tides, the province has diverted more than 750 million tons of fresh water from Guizhou Province and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region this year.
The Guangdong provincial government has invested more than 1.7 billion yuan (US$207 million) to tackle the problem.
(China Daily March 23, 2005)