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From Cities to Villages, Chinese Save Water to Ease Shortages
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To buy or not to buy? Zhang Dongsheng, a newspaper editor in the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, hesitated in front of a water-saving toilet that costs 200 yuan (US$25) more than a traditional one.


At last Zhang decided to buy it, "I will at least feel better when my newspaper calls on people to save water."


Zhang knows that the water crisis has become a hot issue in the world -- over 5,000 delegates from across the world gathered on Thursday in Mexico City for the Fourth World Water Forum, aiming to shape a global strategy for the vital resource.


Wang Aizhong, a farmer with about one hectare of farmland in Zhangye of northwest China's Gansu Province, might be a more earnest advocate for water saving than the editor.


He saved about 500 yuan (US$62.5) from water-saving irrigation. The net income for a typical Chinese farmer last year is 400 dollars.


China, with the largest population of 1.3 billion in the world, is facing water shortages with per capita water resources of 2,200 cubic meters, only 31 percent of the world's average.


Currently, about 400 out of the 660 Chinese cities lack water and 136 have reported severe water shortages.


"The demand for water is tremendous due to the large population, but the potential to save water is also huge," said He Guoqing, vice director with the Guangdong Bureau of Hydrology.


Wang Aizhong had no idea about saving water through farming five years ago and used to flood the land for irrigation.


He altered the practice after a pilot water management reform was kicked off in Zhangye in 2000, which only allows a quota of 6,000 cubic meters of water for his family.


Since then, he has tried his best to save as much water as possible because he can sell the surplus to others. At present, all the farmers in Zhangye use water according to respective quotas.


As a result, two downstream lakes that used to run dry were recovered and more than 1,000 hectares of afforested land were revived.


Cities have also taken measures, from subsidizing water-saving taps or toilets to educating and helping citizens save water.


A water conservation campaign in Beijing has helped the city save 100 million cubic meters of water per year, which can be supplied to 10,000 three-member families for four years.


A residential area in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, recycles 250 cubic meters of waste water by the reclaimed water system, which is used for cleaning and watering. A total of 70 buildings have adopted the reclaimed water system in the city.


Suzhou City in east China's Jiangsu Province plans to spend 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million) this year to replace traditional taps and toilets with water-saving ones


However, China's nationwide water-saving campaign is far from the end. Over 20 percent of water supply in Guangzhou is wasted due to leakage, while water-saving utensils are not popular yet, according to He Guoqing.


(Xinhua News Agency March 20, 2006)

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