Pollution and inefficient use is worsening the drinking water shortage in Guangdong Province, scientists said yesterday.
Zhang Hong'ou, president of the Guangzhou Institute of Geography, which recently completed a study of drinking water in the province, said that the shortage threatening Guangdong - the country's manufacturing powerhouse - will mean that in three years' time, only a third of its water demand will be met.
By 2020, the shortfall will widen to about half of the province's water demand, or more than 3.1 billion cu m, if no measures are taken to address the problem, Zhang said.
These worrying signs come even as the country identified drinking water as a top priority in its environmental blueprint released on Monday.
Zhang said Guangdong possesses abundant water resources - its surface and ground water supplies are more than three times the country's average levels.
But pollution has caused the crisis the province is now facing.
Figures have shown that more than 17,000 cu m of sewage are discharged into rivers throughout Guangdong every year, the China News Service reported.
At least 16 million residents, or nearly 14 percent of the population of Guangdong, are facing water shortages because of pollution.
Chen Junhong, a professor at the geography institute, told China Daily yesterday: "The authorities need to strengthen enforcement efforts to punish polluters and encourage water-saving measures."
The problem is exacerbated as some local governments neglect calls from higher authorities to combat pollution and continue to allow heavy-polluting companies to set up shop for the sake of economic growth, he said.
Meanwhile, the State Environmental Protection Administration said in a draft regulation that fines for some polluters of water resources have been raised by up to five times the previous amount to 500,000 yuan (US$68,000).
However, Chen said some companies were resisting the use of technologies to clean sewage before discharging it into waterways due to the extra cost.
He said more severe punishment such as criminal charges are needed to address the problem.
Zhou Yongzhang, director of the Center for Earth Environment and Resources at Sun Yat-sen University, suggested the authorities put more emphasis on protecting water resources and raising awareness among residents to protect their water resources.
Zhang said studies should be done to find out the best way of protecting the ecology of reservoirs to ensure long-term water supplies.
(China Daily November 28, 2007)