Beijing is confident it can meet the increased demand for water during the 2008 Olympic Games, city water officials have said.
According to sources from the Beijing Water Works Group, once the Beijing-Shijiazhuang section of the middle route of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project opens next year, it will provide Beijing with 400 million cubic meters of water a year.
With this additional supply, the capital's daily requirement of 3 million cubic meters would be easily satisfied.
The group said in a press release on Wednesday that it has earmarked 2 billion yuan (US$256 million) to upgrade the city's water system to guarantee sufficient supply during next year's Games, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
New water-pipe systems have already been installed in the Olympic zone and surrounding areas to ensure the provision of safe drinking water.
Beijing's water-supply network will reach, or even surpass, Olympic standards before the start of the Games, said Jiao Zhizhong, head of the Beijing Water Authority.
"Tap water in the Olympic gyms and the athletes' village will be safe to drink," Jiao told Beijing Youth Daily. "Beijing's old water pipes are being replaced at a rate of 300 kilometers a year."
The arrival of large numbers of tourists and athletes next summer will put enormous pressure on the already parched city.
However, the 307-kilometer-long Beijing-Shijiazhuang section of the diversion project, which will link four reservoirs in Hebei Province with Beijing, should ease water shortages in the capital. The section is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with trials set to begin next April, water resource officials said.
Zhang Jiyao, director of the State Council Office of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, said that priority must be given to save water to ensure the new supply is sufficient to meet the high demand.
"Efforts must be made to raise people's awareness in this regard, and prevent water being lost through leaky pipes or poor irrigation," Zhang was quoted as saying by People's Daily.
Beijing Water Works Group has earmarked 170 million yuan (US$22 million) this year to repair leaky water pipes, Xinhua reported.
The ultimate goal of the middle route of the diversion project is to transfer water from the Hanjiang River, a tributary of the Yangtze in Hubei Province, to North China via Henan and Hebei provinces by 2010.
The project comprises three canals, each running more than 1,000 kilometers across the eastern, central and western parts of the country.
These are designed to divert water from the upper, middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River to the drought-prone north.
The scheme, which is scheduled for completion around 2050, is expected to cost nearly 500 billion yuan (US$62 billion).
Once finished, it will be capable of delivering 44.8 billion cubic meters of water annually, according to figures from the Ministry of Water Resources.
(China Daily March 16, 2007)