Beijing to ease water stress with $2.7bn desalination project

8 May 2014

Beijing, suffering from acute "water stress", is planning to build a $1bn desalination plant 270km away on the Yellow Sea coast.

It will eventually supply a third of the parched Chinese capital’s daily water needs.

Construction of the plant on neighbouring Hebei Province’s coast will start at the end of this year, state media have reported.

The plant will purify and ship a million tons of water per day at a cost of $1.28 per tonne, twice what it costs to provide Beijing’s tap water now, according to Xinhua news agency.

The 270-km-long pipeline to Beijing will cost $1.6bn, bringing the total project cost to approximately $2.7bn. It is due for completion in 2019.

Beijing is in urgent need of water. Xinhua reported that the city’s population now has only 100 cubic meters of water available per person per year, which is just one-tenth of what Xinhua said was the United Nations’ "danger threshold".

Tiananmen Square in Beijing during a sandstorm caused by a severe drought in 2010.(Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

The UN has said that when annual water supplies drop below 1,000 cubic metres per person the population faces water scarcity, which can hamper economic development and human health and well-being.

The city now diverts water from nine sources, including reservoirs in nearby provinces of Hebei and Shanxi, as well as from the city’s outskirts.

The new plant is the second phase of a desalination project run by a joint venture between Norwegian company Aqualyng and Beijing Enterprises Water Group.

The first phase, a seawater reverse osmosis plant east of Beijing in a district of Tangshan called Caofeidian, already produces about 50,000 tons of water each day for the district’s use.

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