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Kunming bracing for new water crisis

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On a recent visit to the Yunlong Reservoir, which provides Kunming's main urban districts with 70 percent of their running water, Kunming Party Secretary Qiu He (仇和) and other officials had a first-hand look at the city's looming water shortage.

The reservoir, which is designed for a capacity of up to 484 million cubic meters, is only storing 147 million cubic meters as of October 20. The current stored water is 98 million cubic meters less than the total stored at the same time last year. This is a cause for concern, as the winter dry season is about to begin.

According to government statistics based upon current tap water consumption, the city of Kunming is expected to require 255 million cubic meters of water in the period between October first of this year and June 30 of next year. It is projected that only 157 million cubic meters of water will be available during that time.

To make matters worse, the main sources of water for Kunming's eastern and western reservoirs are expected to run dry in early 2012. In the government's own words, the city's water supply situation is "grave".

Since late July, 17 counties and cities within Kunming municipality have been suffering from drought conditions, with 448,000 people and 253,000 head of livestock lacking sufficient drinking water. On top of that, government reports are stating that 29 rivers have run dry, 91 reservoirs are empty and 95 wells are unable to provide sufficient water.

So far, seven counties and cities within Kunming municipality are experiencing "rather large" water shortages. The Kunming government has reportedly adopted several measures to deal with its shortage of water, including digging deeper wells and delivering water to needy areas.

In late August, Yunnan Party Secretary Qin Guangrong (秦光荣) declared that the province was once again battling drought conditions. Recent developments appear to have borne out Qin's warning.

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Kunming has been in deep water trouble since the 2010 drought, yet very little has been done about it. Digging deeper wells won't fix the main problem: Kunming has millions more residents than it did 10 years ago.

Last fall there was some official talk about possible water shortages and ways to fix it, but no one ever mentioned reducing water use. It amazed me how wasteful Kunming residents were with water less than 6 months after the worst drought in 100 years. I hope it does not take the city actually running out of water for people to change their habits.

I'm not sure what water they use for watering all the green stuff but every time I see them doing it at high noon at 30 degrees I always wonder if no one's ever told them to do it in the evening or night when 3 fourths of it doesn't evaporate. Just one of many issues of which Mao was one of them (without going into details).

Such a shame that they've rendered the 1.3 billion cubic meters of fresh water in Dianchi lake completely unusable.

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