by Staff Writers
Beijing (UPI) Oct 27, 2011
As China grapples with ever-increasing water shortages, desalination is viewed by the government as part of the solution.
While China represents 20 percent of the world's population, it has just 7 percent of the Earth's fresh water supply.
The Asia Water Project estimates that China's demand for water will increase 63 percent by 2030. Meantime, China falls short by about 50 billion cubic meters of water a year, with two-thirds of its cities suffering various degrees of water shortages.
Chinese President Hu Jintao, speaking at the country's first water conservation conference in July, said the government would step up construction of water facilities, noting that water shortages have impacted "China's economic security, ecological security and national security as the economic and social development and improved livelihoods are facing water strains."
Beijing aims to quadruple production of desalinated water by 2020, from the current level of about 180 million gallons a day to as much as 800 million gallons a day, The New York Times reports.
That would require about 12 more plants like the $4 billion Beijiang Power and Desalination Plant on the Bohai Sea shoreline. Owned by S.D.I.C., a state-run conglomerate, it supplies 10,000 tons of desalted water to the suburb of Tianjin. S.D.I.C. aims to eventually boost production to 180,000 tons.
So far, the facility has experienced flaws in its end product: Because the desalted water is mineral-free, it picks up rust from city pipes and flows from consumers' faucets murky instead of clear. S.D.I.C addressed the issue by adding minerals to the water.
The plant is also losing money, with its desalted water selling for half of what it costs to produce. Still, Beijiang is considered a model to strengthen the country's expertise in desalination.
"If the central government says desalination is going to be a focus area and money should go into desalination technology, then it will," Olivia Jensen, an expert on Chinese water policy and a director at Infrastructure Economics, a Singapore consultancy told the Times.
"The policy drivers are more important than the economic drivers."
Currently less than 60 percent of the desalination equipment and technology used in China's facilities is produced domestically. The Beijiang plant was almost entirely made in Israel, then shipped to Tianjin where it was assembled.
While China perfects its experience in desalination, a number of foreign companies have stepped into China's desalination sector, including Hyflux of Singapore, Toray of Japan, Befesa of Spain, Brack of Israel and ERI of the United States.
Water News - Science, Technology and Politics
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Beijing (UPI) Oct 25, 2011
Scarcity of water in Asia could become a thorny issue for the region and trigger major conflicts, an expert says. A rise in population, increased water use and the expectation that Asia will be most affected by global warming will affect the availability of water for the world's most populous continent. Of even greater concern, warns Brahma Chellaney, author of "Water: Asia's New ... read more
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