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Arguments - Intervention Costs
Modernization of China's water infrastructure will be very expensive.
WB00860_.gif (262 bytes) Urban freshwater supply and wastewater treatment
The development of adequate municipal freshwater supply and wastewater treatment systems will be costly, because China is far behind in the development of this infrastructure. Some 75% of all urban areas do not have adequate systems for the supply and distribution of potable water. Effective infrastructure for municipal wastewater treatment is rare in China. In many cases, wastewater is simply discharged into rivers and lakes, which has contributed to a rapid deterioration of water quality in recent years. The lack of effective measures to stop or slow urban water pollution has exacerbated China's problems with freshwater supply. The longer China waits to develop a functioning waste disposal and wastewater treatment infrastructure, the more complicated - and costly - it will become to provide its rapidly growing urban population with clean drinking water.
Only since the early 1980s have the major cities begun to implement modern water supply and sanitation facilities. It was estimated that between 1981 and 1993 the annual investment in urban public water facilities increased from just 365 million to 5,948 billion yuan (United Nations ESCAP, 1997, p. 23). However, the measures so far have been insufficient. Smaller cities and towns in rural areas, in particular, still have only very basic wastewater treatment facilities. The capacity of public water supplies in the rapidly growing urban-industrial agglomerations (e.g., Guangdong) needs to be increased drastically.
WB00860_.gif (262 bytes) Agricultural water infrastructure
Most of the water consumed in China's agricultural sector is used for flooding irrigation, a method with extremely  low effectiveness. Usually open water canals for the irrigation systems contribute to the water losses. The introduction of more effective irrigation methods could, in many cases, double the available water resource by saving up to 50% of irrigation water. However, the introduction of new irrigation technology requires massive investments, not only in infrastructure development, but also in the introduction and control of pricing schemes and maintenance work.
WB00860_.gif (262 bytes) Industrial water systems
Industry is the biggest source of water pollution in China. Industrial wastewater accounts for about two-thirds of the total discharge into rivers, lakes, and the sea. About 80% of industrial wastewater is untreated. Existing facilities for treating industrial wastewater are operating with outdated technology or are poorly maintained. Recycling of process water is minimal in Chinese industry. It will be very costly to build new facilities and update the existing ones.
WB00860_.gif (262 bytes) Water policy
Rational water use and wastewater treatment in China is not only an engineering problem; it is also a public awareness issue and a question of adequate economic, administrative, and legislative measures. The situation could be improved at relatively low costs by introducing bold measures such as (a) adequate economic incentives for water saving, such as tariffs or taxes, (b) clear and efficient administrative and legal procedures for planning and implementation of water infrastructure projects, and (c) public awareness and information campaigns to promote water-saving practices in households and urban businesses and industries. Also, specialized departments for water supply and treatment at the prefecture and provincial levels are necessary to implement larger water projects affecting more than one town or city. These departments need a strong legal and political position to settle conflicts of interest.
WB00860_.gif (262 bytes) Flood control
Floods are a major risk for Chinas food security. It was estimated that about one third of the dams in China are in bad condition and seriously need repairs or rebuilding. In March 1999 China Daily published an estimate of the Ministry of Water Resources that some 33 billion Yuan would have to be invested in order to improve and rebuild dangerous dams. 100 major dams, as well as some 800 medium-sized and about 32,000 small dams need repairs or mainainance.
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Related Arguments

Water Resources:   Trends     Impact    Data Quality    Prediction Error    Intervention Possibilities    Intervention Costs

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Revision 2.0 (First revision published in 1999)  - Copyright 2011 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. (First revision: Copyright 1999 by IIASA.)