Salty solution to water woes?

Beijing is studying the feasibility of seawater desalination to meet its voracious demand for water. At 9 yuan ($1.39) per cubic meter, the cost of desalinated water is more than twice the price of regular water, Beijing Institute of Water vice director Zhang Tong revealed Monday.

Zhang told Beijing Public Service Radio that Beijing’s water demand has been 4 billion cubic meters a year for the past five years, but that local resources can only provide half that much.

Over-exploitation of underground water reserves has caused their levels to drop by 1 meter a year since 1999, according to the Beijing Water Authority’s website, bjwater.gov.cn.

Beijing has mainly depended on water diverted from elsewhere, Zhang added. The South-to-North Water Diversion Project, scheduled for completion in 2014, is expected to bring 1 billion cubic meters of water a year to Beijing.

Some experts prefer seawater desalination, as it does not affect other cities’ water resources.

“Desalination is an essential solution that opens up new sources, rather than taking limited water from others,” Guo Youzhi, secretary-general of the Asia-Pacific Desalination Association, told the Global Times.

“At present, the country has the capability to desalinate tens of thousands of tons of seawater, and the cost has dropped to about 4.5 yuan ($0.70) per cubic meter,” Guo said, citing a significantly lower price than the 9 yuan predicted by Zhang Tong. The cost of water in Beijing has been 4 yuan ($0.61) since 2009.

Zhang Junfeng, founder of the non-government water resource watchdog Happy Water Journeys,  noted that desalination requires a great deal of electricity, and that considering the offshore waters of Bohai are polluted, they would have to go deeper to get clean water, costing more money.

The Beijing Water Authority could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but according to a May 23 Beijing News report, an attempt in Tianjin to mix 6,000 tons of desalinated water, at 8.15 yuan ($1.26) per cubic meter, into the municipal water supply, priced at 4.6 yuan ($0.71), triggered boycotts by water companies because no State policy regulated who would make up the cost difference.

Source: Global Times

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