China makes desalination push to ease water scarcity

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) – China will invest in new desalination plants over the 2021-2025 period and raise capacity to 2.9 million tonnes a day in a bid to boost water supplies, the country’s state planning agency said in a new “five-year plan” for the sector.

As much as 1.25 million tonnes per day of new capacity will be commissioned over the period, including 1.05 million tonnes in coastal cities and 200,000 tonnes in “island regions,” the National Development and Reform Commission said on Wednesday (June 2).

Demonstration seawater desalination projects will be built in the provinces of Liaoning, Hebei, Shandong and Zhejiang as well as the city of Tianjin. It said desalinated water will become a major back-up source of municipal supplies in regions suffering from shortages.

China’s water per capita is about 2,000 cubic metres, less than a quarter of the global average and among the lowest in the world. Shortages are particularly acute in the north, where excessive rates of extraction and overmining has put underground water tables at risk.

China has already built several new canals transferring water from the flood-prone Yangtze river to the drought-stricken Yellow river regions of the north, a project known as the South-North Water Diversion Project.

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