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Middle route relieving Beijing's shortage

CCTV.comUpdated: December 12, 2015

Routing water from China's south to quench the thirst of the country's north -- China's Water Diversion Project is one of the world's most ambitious and controversial engineering tasks. 

It's been discussed for over half a century and been under construction for more than a decade. The middle route begun operations exactly one year ago, and has diverted more than 40 percent of its water to Beijing. So what impact has the project brought to the country's capital twelve months on?  

It's a normal day at a small restaurant in downtown Beijing. Cooking and washing. Floor manager Ye Dong keeps an account. Ye said: "We use about 160 tons of water every month."

But few people realize that two-thirds of the city's water comes from 1,200 kilometers away. The water begins its journey in the upper reaches in the Danjiangkou Reservoir in Hubei Province. This middle route is the second of three to transfer the water.

This is the finishing point of the middle route project. This 800-meter-long channel is the only open part of the canal within Beijing's border. Almost all the water flows underground, travelling 15 days from central China's Danjiangkou to the capital Beijing.

The Tuanchenghu Tank holds up 1.5 million cubic meters of water. How much is that exactly? I will give you some idea. Beijing has to use two tanks of water like this every day. And as of this month, the middle route project has brought 510 tanks of water to Beijing.

The water has three uses. Nearly 70 percent goes to Beijing for drinking and day-to-day living. Some is saved in reservoirs or tanks to relieve water shortages. And the rest is diverted to the city's underground to refill its dry earth. 

Jiang Chunqin, Deputy Inspector of South-to-North Water Diversion Project Beijing Office said:"So far, the reduction of groundwater has been slowed down. But we can't say we've filled the gap. Beijing has long been over-exploiting its groundwater resources. The water storage has always been decreasing, so there is a huge water deficit. It's believed that the gap has exceeded 6 billion cubic meters of water. This all needs to be recovered with the water coming from the diversion project."

Jiang says that while the middle route has provided some relief to the capital's water shortage, it has also brought up the cost of supplying water. For every ton of water to be transferred from Danjiangkou to Beijing now costs 2.3 yuan. But this isn't being included in the water bills residents pay at the moment.  

"Water prices remains at 5 yuan per ton, if you use less than 180 tons of water, and seven yuan per ton if under 260 tons. Overall, the water brought by the diversion project hasn't affected residents' water costs," said Zhao Zhixin, Director of Beijing Water Resources Control Center.

The Beijing Water Authority says the city is still demanding more water. So finding alternative sources and preserving current resources are just as crucial in quenching Beijing's thirst.