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Kunming neighborhoods face water rationing

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A shot of Yunlong reservoir taken in May 2014
A shot of Yunlong reservoir taken in May 2014

Residents of Kunming may believe the city's four-year drought has ended due to recent rains, but that is not the case. This is the message local officials are conveying as they take emergency measures to deal with mounting water shortages. On Tuesday, the largest source of water for Yunnan's capital, Yunlong reservoir (云龙水库), suspended output completely for 15 days.

The closing of Yunlong is significant, as the reservoir supplies roughly 70 percent of all water used in the Spring City. That supply is now largely gone, as water levels in the storage facility are currently 94 percent lower than historical averages. Officials hope the intermittent rains hitting Yunnan over the past three weeks will continue and replenish stocks. In the meantime, Qingshuihai (清水海) and Songhuaba (松华坝) reservoirs are planned to provide the majority of the city's water.

People across the city can expect a drop in water pressure and, in specific areas, water outages. A list of the neighborhoods so far slated for cutoffs is listed at the conclusion of this article. As in past years, people are advised to keep extra drinking water in their homes and fill containers for essential washing activities and flushing toilets. Water use considered non-essential is officially discouraged.

The city plans on utilizing firehouses to deliver drinking water to neighborhoods suffering long-term from low water pressure. Kunming also has several underground cisterns, which may be tapped in extreme conditions to supply affected areas with water for a few hours each day.

It may seem inexplicable to implement water rationing measures as Kunming is receiving downpours on an almost daily basis. Yunlong, however, is located roughly 120 kilometers north of Kunming in Luquan County (禄劝县). Conditions in the reservoir's catchment basin are extremely dry, exacerbated by upriver areas receiving little rain and usage in downstream cities — including Kunming — spiking due to hot weather.

Yunnan's ongoing drought has spanned more than four years and caused hundreds of millions of yuan in damage to agriculture and industry. Harm has not always been directly linked to a lack of water. Parts of the province have repeatedly been hit with massive landslides caused when the ground has become too dry and packed to effectively absorb rain.

Detail of Yunlong reservoir taken in May 2014
Detail of Yunlong reservoir taken in May 2014

Editor's note: Although the list below contains some neighborhoods expected to experience low water pressure or outages over the next two weeks, it is not comprehensive. A complete list has not been issued publicly. To obtain further information regarding a specific section of the city, and possible outage times, the public can call the Water Utility Customer Service Hotline at 96106.

North Kunming

Neighborhoods along Beijing Lu up to Bei Pianqu (北京路延长线北片区)
Neighborhoods north of Linyu Lu (霖雨路)
Jinjiang Xiaoqu (金江小区)
Lishui Yayuan (丽水雅苑)
Ciba Pianqu (茨坝片区)
Puji Pianqu (普吉片区)

West Kunming

Fengning Xiaoqu (丰宁小区)
Chunhui Xiaoqu (春晖小区)
Hongshan Xiaoqu (虹山片区)

Central Kunming

Wuhua Shan Pianqu (五华山片区)
Luofeng Jie (螺峰街)
Cuihu Nanlu (翠湖南路)
Kundu Xiaoqu (瓦仓小区)

Northeast Kunming

Chuanjin Lu (穿金路)
Xinying Xiaoqu (新迎小区)
Fengyuan Lu Pianqu (沣源路片区)
Heilinpu Pianqu (黑林铺片区)

Images: CLZG

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Water rationing:

Here on Yuantong Bei Lu.

At a friends on Huancheng Bei Lu.

At work at Bei Shi Qu, near the North Bus Station.

Seems super ridiculous especially since it's been raining for weeks!

There really is an argument for limited all year round water restrictions, and not just waiting till it reaches crisis and then implementing crisis measures.

I would agree with Mr. Woodswoods and also argue that water reductions and outages should be city wide and not restricted to what seems to be the largest common people(老百姓) neighborhoods in the city.

Yet they let the car wash businesses still run. Close them down.

Those neighborhoods have the least guangxi and probably pay the low or subsidized rates. I live right across a major street from one of those, but in a modern highrise. Will be interesting to see if my water flows unabated while they get reduced pressure. If so, would be completely unfair.

"Yunlong, however, is located far from Kunming in the province's west" May be but I'm pretty sure Yunlong Reservoir is 160 km north of Kunming in the same prefecture.

When I called the Water company they told me that Yunlong supplied 40% of the cities water supply. She also told me that they were bringing in water from the east and west of Kunming. I think this issue will last longer than 15 days.

No. It's about 400-500km west. Yunlong is part of Dali prefecture.

The problem is not the drought. It's the complete mismanagement of precious ressources. Instead of spending money on the construction and maintainance of the water system (pipelines) and the waste water system including clarification plants, Yunnans officials rather spend it on prestige buildings. Why? Because the officials on the next higher level will only judge on what they see, meaning above surface.
It's very easy: If you already havent got enough of something, dont waste it.

I agree that the government manages water resources badly. But there is a complete lack of awareness from most people (not just in China) that water is a resource that has to be processed and is valuable. I have noticed people taking half an hour+ showers, washing their cars and using way too much water for washing the dishes. You can be certain that the richer families in the richers areas proportionaely use far much water than the older Xiaoqus.

Plus, imagine the loss of face cruising in a dusty BMW..

That depends. My neighbour only uses two buckets of water to wash his car: one with soap, one to rinse off. He also has a dishwasher and uses a bathtub. On the other hand, I can see people from the older xiaoqu next door washing their bowls outside and leaving the water run while they scrub, or at other times, leaving their hose on the balcony with water constantly pouring while they go inside for 20 minutes and then come back to brush the balcony and then wash it off with the water that hasn't been turned off the whole time. Same with gardeners in different xiaoqus who leave the hose pouring in the drain when it's lunch break, because the faucet is 10 meters that way and the way to the break room is on the other side.

松化坝 should be corrected to 松华坝.
Yunlong Dali is not the same as Yunlong Reservoir. The comment by Wen Tao is accurate.

I think Kate has a good point and that a lot of water is probably used in wasteful construction. But there really is a drought, has been for recent years, and I think it's true that people everywhere, of whom there are way too many, are careless about wasting water. As for washing cars, there are too many of them too.

The questions is: What causes the drought? Is it the vast destruction of the environment (cutting down forests, removing whole mountains, building dams and so on) or is it only because of climate change as some Chinese government 'experts' say. If you know the answer, you can solve the problem instead of just cutting the water supply.

Second question: Does Kunming and Yunnan use up more water then they posses?

Growing agricultural and flower sector (plants need water and animals use up huge amounts of water during their lifetime), changing life style (cars, meat and so on), mining, construction sites (you need water for mixing concrete and while the concrete dries) and so on

Are there ways to use the water more efficient and not waste it?
Non leaking pipelines and more clarification plants...

I clearly doubt, that any of the government officials would ever think that far. Beijing is the best example. They havent got enough water, so they redirect water from the Yangtze river which is just 1500km away. Not considering the vital consequences...

@Kate: 1st question, my guess is that it's both. Destruction of the environment started centuries ago, here and elsewhere, particularly severe in China thanks to the population and other factors such as the low percentage of flat land in China - destruction evident even in the 19th century to foreign visitors. AS for Beijing, the comparison with 20th-century growth of Los Angeles & the virtual disappearance of the Colorado River in its lower reaches. and US lawns in places like Tucson and Phoenix. Emptying of aquifers in North Africa (Libya, for example).
Yes, governments and human populations need to wise up. There are indeed more efficient ways to manage water, but at any rate there are too many of us, and there will be more. The human species is arrogant, and ideas of Progress, a product of the French Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, need to be re-examined and toned down, here and everywhere.

Wen Tao and AlexKMG are both correct. The article has been corrected. My apologies for getting the facts wrong.

So does that mean they're going to stop watering the streets now?

@Elisa: Good question, because for watering the streets 中水 (reclaimed water) is used not tap water.

Yeah, the water used for plants and streets is supposed to be the grey water from sewage.

Also in your neighborhood they are only supposed to use grey water or sewage for watering. That's why it always smells so bad.

My neighbourhood (at the top of hill off XueFuLu) has been on 1-2 hours of running water for many months already, caused by the lowering of water pressure which means it can't reach our level. My (Chinese) wife spoke to the guy who drives the daily water truck up to us and he said the problem was less the drought and more the quadrupling of Kunming's population with no consequent investment in new reservoirs. I'm sure there is some truth in that.

Quadrupling likely - but over what period of time?

That was my thought. He didn't say, but I guess the point was that there had been no new investments in KM reservoirs in whatever time it took to x4.

As I said before: Complete mismanagement and ignorance. What really makes me laugh is, on the one hand it's drought, but they still water the plants in my xiaoqu with tap water and of course in the afternoon when sun is at it's peak. On the other hand when it's raining, and heavy rain is very common here, everything is flooded within minutes.

By the way, who helps the elderly people to carry their water buckets into their apartment?

@Kate, your question: I think anyone can do this.

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