Tap water in Guangzhou and Shenzhen fails quality tests

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 September, 2008, 12:00am

Samples from tap-water sources in Guangzhou and Shenzhen had failed to meet provincial drinking water standards in the first half of the year, pointing to a lack of awareness about the need to protect water resources, mainland media said yesterday.

And with many high-polluting and labour-intensive Pearl River Delta factories relocating to less developed areas in the past two years as part of provincial industrial restructuring, environmental experts are concerned more water resources might be contaminated, as rivers run through these areas before reaching the delta.

The China News Service said only 72.5 per cent of tap water in Guangzhou was up to standard, and 94.9 per cent in Shenzhen, according to an investigation by the provincial people's congress.

It said they were the only two cities in the province that failed to meet the standard, even though the amount of acceptable tap water in Guangzhou rose by 2.8 percentage points compared with last year, and increased by 11.7 percentage points in Shenzhen.

The report blamed contamination of resources in western Guangdong for Guangzhou's poor quality.

It said sewage upstream was the main source of tap-water contamination in Guangzhou, while in Shenzhen, the problem was excessive levels of nitrogen.

The investigators also concluded that a lack of awareness about the need to protect water resources was the main obstacle to keeping tap water clean.

Guang Yaoqiu, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, said this lack of awareness extended to local officials and was the reason many people in Guangzhou had given up drinking tap water many years ago.

'I've drunk only bottled water since 2000,' Mr Guang said. 'There are many people like me. We use tap water only for washing.'

He said that as the provincial government encouraged polluting factories to move out of the delta into less-developed areas, the risk of water contamination increased.

'Contamination from domestic sewage and industrial discharge will grow as more workers work there and more sewage is released,' he said.

'Besides asking highly polluting factories to install decontamination equipment, local governments should also keep a close eye on the labour-intensive plants for their discharge of domestic sewage.'

Sun Yat-sen University researcher Shu Wensheng said it was impossible to stop these factories moving to more remote areas because there was a shortage of land and higher costs in the delta.

'But we can learn lessons from the past 30 years of development because our government is supposed to have more experience and money,' Mr Shu said.