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Beijing Municipality Pledges Sufficient water supply
The dials on water meters have been turning much more quickly in Beijing since people began to wash their hands and clothes more frequently to prevent SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

The city's water authorities have promised to ensure a sufficient water supply during the epidemic SARS rather than issuing their usual call to save water. The city, like much of northern China, faces water shortages, especially in spring.

The city also suspended the use of "moderately treated" sewage water that does not meet the hygiene standard of drinking water and that is usually used to water flowers and lawns in public places.

Moreover, the capital has restricted access to its reservoirs to reassure the public that drinking water is safe, although there is no sign that SARS can spread through the water supply, said Yu Yaping, an official with the Beijing Water Resources Bureau.

Hotels and other businesses near the capital's two main reservoirs - the Huairou and Miyun - have been ordered to close, said Yu.

He said around 80 smaller reservoirs have also been told to impose stricter safety precautions.

Beijing's main reservoirs are usually open for boating and fishing, though swimming is banned.

Villagers who live near the Huairou and Miyun reservoirs and the Jingmi canal have been ordered to report daily on any possible signs of the disease, Yu said.

Meanwhile, Beijing's environmental protection administration also urged confirmed and suspect SARS patients and anyone who has had contact with a SARS patient to refrain from entering training centers and other facilities near sources of drinking water, especially the major reservoirs.

In the event of suspected SARS infection or contact with SARS patients, residents should be transferred out of protected areas as soon as possible, according to a circular issued by the administration.

Given that it is still uncertain whether SARS can be transmitted via water, special efforts should be made to protect drinking water because the safety of the water supply is vital to people's lives, said the circular.

The city's sewage treatment plants have also added disinfectants such as sodium hypochlorite to their treated water in an effort to kill any virus, according to Yang Xiangping, an employee with the Beijing Municipal Drainage Co Ltd.

The municipal government has allocated 30 tons of disinfectant daily to drainage plants to prevent the further spread of SARS.

Stricter hygiene standards are required for medical waste water, which must be pretreated before entering the city's drainage system.

(China Daily May 9, 2003)

Beijing Urges Protection of Drinking Water
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