About 83,000 people in central China's Hunan Province are facing drinking water shortages as drought has been plaguing the area for months.
As of Friday, 83,000 people in 31 counties in the province and 40,000 heads of livestock had been affected by water shortage, according to the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters. The drought also affected 400,000 hectares of cropland and dried up more than 1,500 reservoirs. The water level of some stretches of the Xiangjiang River, the province's main waterway, is at a historical low.
"This year, Hunan suffered drought both in summer and autumn," said Xiao Kuntao, an official with the headquarters. "The sustained drought has caused all-time lows in the water level of the Xiangjiang River."
Statistics with the provincial meteorological bureau showed the province had 123 millimeters of rain from September to November, down nearly 50 percent from normal years.
The headquarters said it had ordered reservoirs to ensure adequate water supply for residents.
The Dongjiang Reservoir, the largest on the upper reaches of the Xiangjiang, doubled its sluicing volume to 200 cubic meters per second since November 10 to supplement water to the middle and lower basins. The heavy rainfall brought by Typhoon Sepat in August made the reservoir short of 1.1 billion cubic meters of water, Xiao said.
Other hydropower projects along the river were also asked not to conserve water from the upper reaches.
Currently, the water level at the main Changsha section of Xiangjiang River is only five centimeters higher than the lowest in history.
"If the water level drops by ten more centimeters, three of our water plants will be unable to get water from the river and the water supply to many residents will be cut off," said a worker with Changsha Tap Water Company.
The low water levels have also worsened pollution in the river.
"We will strengthen the monitoring of water quality and shut down some heavy polluting factories to ensure drinking water safety for citizens," said Xiao.
Pan Zhixiang, deputy director of the Hunan meteorological bureau, said the drought may last until next January as little rainfall is forecast in the near future.
Drought is also afflicting neighboring Jiangxi Province. The water level of the province's Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, is nearing its lowest level in history due to meagre rainfall in the past two months, local authorities said on Tuesday.
The lake's low water level has caused drinking water shortages for residents near the lake and affected industrial production. Local authorities are "taking all kinds of measures" to deal with the situation.
Jiangxi had seen the least rainfall from mid-September since 1960, local meteorological station said.
(Xinhua News Agency December 6, 2007)