The Tangshan plant is able to process 50,000 tonnes of seawater a day for drinking. (File photo/Xinhua)
Pressure on Beijing's water supply will be eased in the future when the city's residents are given access to desalinized seawater safe for drinking, a senior executive of the company in charge of the city's water supply has said.
A desalinized seawater plant has recently been put into operation in the coastal city of Tangshan, about 260km southeast of Beijing, Zhou Lingyun, assistant to the president of the Beijing Enterprises Water Group, told reporters on Wednesday.
"Every day, the plant is able to put out 50,000 tonnes of desalinized seawater, which meets the standards of drinking water," Zhou said.
The daily output capacity will be expanded to 1 million or even 3 million tonnes in the future, he said. "That will greatly ease the water shortage in Beijing. If the daily output capacity reaches 3 million tonnes, that will meet the daily demand of the city for drinking water," according to Zhou.
Beijing's water shortage has worsened as its permanent population nears 20 million. Official figures suggest the city's per capita water resource availability has dropped to 100 cubic meters a year, or one-tenth of the United Nations' "danger threshold."
China will greatly increase its seawater desalination capacity over the next five years to ease shortages in coastal areas and islands and boost drinking water safety in some central and western regions, the government announced Monday.
The nation aims to raise the desalinization capacity to between 2.2 million and 2.6 million cubic meters per day by 2015, according to a statement from by the General Office of the State Council, China's cabinet.
Currently, the country desalinates about 640,000 tonnes of seawater every day, according to data from the website of Environmental Test Equipment, which predicted investment in the industry will reach 20 billion yuan (US$3.2 billion) over the next four years.
By 2015, desalinated seawater will contribute to over half of newly added water supply in islands and about 15% of water supply in coastal areas lacking fresh water, according to the statement.
With the expansion of facilities and advanced technologies, China will have 20 cities using desalinated seawater by 2015.
The statement said the Chinese government attaches importance to developing the seawater desalination industry, as it helps create new sources of economic growth and restructure the economy.