Miyun Reservoir, which supplies half of Beijing's water, is seven metres below its optimum level and still dropping. This year has been the driest in Beijing since 1949, according to the Beijing Youth Daily, and last year's total rainfall was only 58.7 per cent of the average. The water table under the capital has already dropped 2.3 metres since January 1, adding up to a fall of more than 60 metres over the past 35 years. In Xinchengzi, the rural township north of Miyun, farmers are no longer able to draw water from wells, forcing them to buy water from trucks. The 16 major reservoirs that supply Beijing's water are 800 million cubic metres short of sustainable levels, an amount adequate to supply the municipality's 13 million residents for more than a year. After 18 months of unusually dry weather, city officials are finally preparing for action. According to Xinhua, various government offices are 'discussing 26 measures' to deal with the water shortage problem. A spokesman for the Beijing Bureau of Water Conservation confirmed the measures being considered included higher water prices and rationing, but declined to give specifics. According to one source, the likely outcome is a per-household quota of 8 tonnes per month with a steep increase in price and possible fines for any amount over the limit. Other steps might include a water tap inspection and replacement programme. The Water Conservation Ministry estimates that leaky taps waste as much as 100 million tonnes of water each year. There is also likely to be a programme to encourage recycling water for industrial purposes. Beijing Mayor Liu Qi hopes to save 150 million tonnes of water within two or three years, according to Xinhua. But the Ministry of Water Conservancy does not expect this to be enough. Minister Wang Xucheng told the Beijing Evening News that by 2010 Beijingers would very likely be 'drinking Yangtze River water'. His ministry has set up a bureau to develop plans to bring water to the north from wetter parts of the mainland. Beijing is not the only city with a water shortage. Four hundred of China's 668 cities are facing shortages, and more than 100 are 'seriously threatened', according to Xinhua.