China's capital Beijing is suffering its worst drought in 50 years, with only 17 millimeters of rainfall reported this year, down 63 percent from the same period last year.
The lack of rain is already challenging the city's water supply, said experts at a meeting on flood control and drought prevention.
The city's 16 large and medium-sized reservoirs presently hold 1.31 billion cubic meters of water. Beijing's water supply bureau said consumption totaled 3.45 billion cubic meters last year, including 1.49 billion cubic meters of drinking water.
The city is home to 15.36 million permanent residents and over four million transients.
Most of Beijing's surface water resources are stored in reservoirs but even the Miyun Reservoir -- the largest storage facility in north China -- holds only 992 million cubic meters of water this year.
The reservoir, with a capacity of 4.375 billion cubic meters, provides two thirds of the drinking water for the Beijingers and needs at least one billion cubic meters to maintain supplies, said Jiao Zhizhong, director of Beijing water supply bureau.
Drought prevention officials say Beijing will maximize storage at reservoirs, rivers and lakes and will take every opportunity to create artificial rainfall in reservoir areas.
Meanwhile, meteorologists have predicted the drought will ease, but have warned of torrential rain and mud-rock flows to come over the next three months.
Beijing's flood control and drought prevention headquarters has dispatched teams to monitor reservoirs, lakes, riverbanks and residential areas in downtown Beijing.
Before the end of June, the city will set up rainfall surveillance stations at major Olympic facilities under construction to monitor the volume of rain.
Beijing has suffered drought for seven consecutive years. The Beijing News reported the average annual rainfall between 1999 and 2005 was only 70 percent of the annual average since records began.
Throughout 1999, the city had only 349 millimeters of rainfall, about 58.7 percent of the annual average, it said.
(Xinhua News Agency May 12, 2006)