Beijingers will be able to drink pure water processed from seawater next year. The Tianjin Haide Runzi Corp will produce the water at one yuan (US$0.12) per 550ml bottle. This will be the first time in China that desalinated seawater will be marketed as drinking water on a large scale.
According to Du Chunyuan, general manager of Tianjin Haide Runzi, desalinated seawater has sold very well in Tianjin, "We have been selling water by the bucket to local families. A 20kg bucket costs 10 yuan (US$1.2) and we sell 1,600 to 1,700 buckets a day. We have also sold bottled water in supermarkets in Tianjin at one yuan for a 550ml bottle," said Du.
"At first the Tianjin consumers did not turn readily to this product. They didn't think the desalinated water would taste pleasant because the seawater it comes from doesn't. We responded by setting up a promotion in the supermarkets inviting consumers to taste the water for free. When they found the pure desalinated water tasted not bad at all and was about the same price as the water marketed by the bucket under the "Robust" and "Wa Ha Ha" brand names, the volume of sales increased rapidly," said Du.
He continued, "We plan to increase production, and develop new markets in areas beyond Tianjin such as Beijing so people there can look forward to having a drink of the water next year."
"The Tianjin Haide Runzi Corp. is affiliated to the Tianjin Dagang Power Plant. The Corp. has invested US$5.4 million in importing two desalination plants from Japan. Each has a capacity of 3,000 tons of pure water a day. With production now scaled up, the cost of desalinating a ton of seawater has decreased to eight yuan (US$0.97). The cost of further processing the desalinated water into the pure potable product adds two yuan (US$0.24) to this. However, the cost of producing pure water from tap water is eight yuan and our production costs are only two yuan more per ton. Once these costs are assimilated into our total costs at the point of sale this only makes a small difference to the unit price. And so our product is competitive in price," he said.
Doctor Ruan Guoling from the State Oceanic Administration's Tianjin Research Institute of Seawater Desalination and Utilisation said, "There is excellent potential for the price of water from this source to decrease as the technology improves. When daily throughput reaches say 80,000 to 100,000 tons, the cost of desalination should come down to about three yuan (US $0.36) per ton."
China first adopted desalination technology to provide fresh water for the local residents on some islands in 1997. At present, the daily output of desalination in the country has reached 30,000 tons with an annual output of 10 million tons.
"Improvements in technology can not only increase the volume, but also decrease the costs of desalination. In the 1970s, the cost was 20 yuan (US$2.4) per ton but now, costs can be reduced to say 5 to 7 yuan (US$0.60 to 0.85). Costs continue to decrease gradually as the technology improves with the application of new materials and the costs of desalination plants are coming down. As a result large-scale applications of desalination technology have now become viable," said Ruan Guoling.
(china.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, August 8, 2002)