China ups water treatment targets, boosts regulation

China’s Central government has set out to reduce smelly and black water in urban areas in its new water treatment plan.

China’s State Council released an Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention and Control on 16 April, the conception of which is said to have taken two years to take shape.

The master plan comes as a response to major food safety concerns subsequent to soil and water pollution having repercussions on public health. Research findings from the Ministry of Land and Resources reported by State media state that only 22 percent of groundwater under the North China plain, one of the most populous in the country, is safe for drinking.

The plan includes 26 detailed requirements and 238 implementing measures to help authorities reach the ambitious 2020 target for cleaning 70 percent of seven major rivers, including Yangtze, Yellow, Pearl and Huai rivers.

Drinking water safety has been hoisted as a priority but, according to the plan, will need five years to be guaranteed in the most affected urban areas.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection has ranked the country’s water into five classes, with one to three being deemed drinkable and four and five needing intervention. The latter were prioritised under a 2030 target to reach class three level.

Local media quoted Wu Shunze, deputy director of the environmental ministry’s Chinese Academy of Environmnetal Planning, as describing one of the mater plan’s main advances as protecting major source areas such as the Dongjiang River in the eastern province of Jianxi, the Luan River, in the Central province of Hebei, and Qiandao Lake, in Zhejiang Province, South of Shanghai.

However, the official depicted a strenuous road ahead and warned the results would take a long time to show as “contamination of groundwater is complicated.”

Monitoring of efforts from all parties involved at the governmental and local level will be a big part of the plan. As of 2018 all cities will need to publish data on their drinking water condition, and liaising with the media has been integrated as one of the means to maintain pressure on public authorities.