BEIJING China's capital has been "severely
tested" in ensuring there will be enough safe water for the
2008 Olympics but is sure that recycling run-off and tapping
additional sources will avoid shortages, a city official said.
Beijing lies in the country's arid north, a region where
urban growth, industrialization and pollution have strained
supplies, forcing the city of 16 million to draw increasingly
on declining underground sources.
With the Olympic Games opening in August set to lift
demand, Beijing has turned to neighboring Hebei province,
enduring a long drought, to supply 300 million cubic meters of
"back-up" water through a network of canals.
Northern China has had very little rain or snow throughout
the winter, adding to worries. But Zhang Shouquan, a deputy
chief of the Beijing water bureau, said athletes and visitors
could expect clean, full supplies for pools, taps and a big
"How to ensure water supplies for the Olympic Games period
has been a severe test for us," Zhang told the Chinese-language
Sohu news Web site (news.sohu.com) in an on-line interview.
"Now our water quality is fine and we can absolutely
guarantee supplies for the competitions ... We can certainly
ensure the water-quality security for athletes."
Zhang gave apparently contradictory numbers for supply and
demand, saying that Beijing planned to supply 3 billion cubic
meters of water in 2008, which he said was "much higher than
the past year." But he also said that in recent years Beijing
had consumed up to 3.5 billion cubic meters of water a year.
"The problem we have now is that, as well as shortfalls in
water sources, there is also severe pollution of the aquatic
environment," Zhang said. "Our task in cleaning up water is
But a combination of increased water-saving and recycling,
the planned extra supplies from Hebei and tapping underground
sources would ensure that the spike in demand could be met,
Critics including Dai Qing, a prominent Beijing
environmental advocate, have said that the Olympic Games
projects are badly straining aquifers, which have already
fallen sharply in recent years.
But Zhang appeared to suggest that pumping underground
supplies could be safely increased -- for a while.
"We still have abundant underground water," he said.
"Although there may be some situations of shortages, we can
absolutely guarantee providing water sources under safe
transfer conditions for a period of time."
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Nick Macfie)