An action plan has been introduced to tighten water consumption as part of high-quality development moves, which aims to improve efficiency in the use of natural resources and better protect the environment while boosting economic growth.
By 2020, water consumption per 10,000 yuan ($1,487) of GDP is expected to drop by 23 percent from that in 2015, with a 20-percent reduction in using water to produce 10,000 yuan in industrial added value, according to the plan promulgated by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Water Resources on April 15.
In addition, China's overall water consumption will be constrained within 670 billion cubic meters by 2022, with improved conservation, the document said. Furthermore, the figure will be controlled within 700 cu m with water conservation and recycling at a world-leading level by 2035.
The 29-clause plan sets six key tasks, including control of overall water consumption, reducing agricultural, industrial and urban use and technological innovation. In the meantime, two measures will deepen reform in establishing the water price and cultivate a competitive service market. The plan encourages private capital to join and expand financing channels.
China has a water shortage, the commission said on its website. Each year, the country faces a shortfall of 50 billion cu m of fresh water. In the meantime, public awareness of conserving water and preventing waste has to be improved.
In 2017, water consumption per $10,000 in GDP was 500 cu m, 66.6 percent more than the average number for developed economies, the commission said.
China's water resource per capita is only one-third of the world's average, according to the Zhongshang Industrial Research Institute's website chnci.com. Regional disparity has made it worse. Southwestern and southern parts of the country have rich water resources while one-fourth of provincial regions are facing severe lack of water, the institute said. In the meantime, urbanization has increased the amount of waste water by 4.2 percent annually, from 48.5 billion metric tons in 2013 to 57.1 billion tons in 2017, it said.
China lags behind leading economies in water-use efficiency, said Yuan Da, the NDRC spokesman. Every 10,000 yuan in industrial added value consumes 45.6 cu m of water, double that for developed economies, he said.
Water conservation should be promoted from developing, using and protecting the natural resource with careful allocation, said E Jingping, minister of water resources, in an article published by People's Daily late last month. Projects that do not pass water conservation assessments will not be approved, he said.
Universities will join efforts to save water under a new evaluation system, which will be released by the ministries of water resources and education, the minister said. A number of universities will be designated along with the participation of private capital, which is expected to get the public involved, he added.
Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public& Environmental Affairs, said that the plan is expected to accelerate water conservation.
"The disparity in water resources among different provincial regions means we have to save more water for a sustainable development for the years to come, even centuries," Ma said.
"In industrial and agricultural production, more technologies can help save such resource. It also applies to China's urbanization process, as now only 11 percent of towns can process waste water."