Beijing desalination project 'aims at 3 million m³/d'

The residents of Beijing, China's capital, could be drinking desalinated seawater within five years, and the source could become a main supply in efforts to deal with the water shortage.

According to a report in the China Daily quoting the National Development & Reform Commission's (NDRC) website, a project to desalinate seawater from Bohai Bay and transport it to Beijing through 230 km of pipe has been trialled in Caofeidian in Hebei province.

The desalination project is the first to be designed in China and cost RMB 430 million (US$ 67 million), said NDRC, the country's top planning agency. The first stage of the project, which could produce 50,000 m³/d, was completed on 11 October 2011.

The technology is being provided by Aqualyng, the desalination company headquartered in Dubai and Norway.

"Our company will continue to cooperate with Chinese companies to develop a seawater desalination program that can provide 100,000 m³/d next year," Ge Lin, market manager at Aqualyng, told China Daily. "In the near future, we aim to develop a 1 million m³/d program, and in the long term, we may reach 3 million m³/d."

Xie Zhenhua, deputy head of the NDRC, said the project would be an important part of solving Beijing's water shortage. Demand for water in Beijing is increasing rapidly, and the city's underground water has been overused, Liang Li, spokeswoman for the Beijing Waterworks Group, which supplies most people in the capital with water, told China Daily.

"The maximum water supply in the city is 3 million m³/d, but the peak water consumption by Beijing residents reached 2.88 million m³/d last year," she said, adding that the city's population is increasing, meaning demand is growing.

"An 8,000 km network of pipes covers the city," she said. "Although we have made efforts to develop new water sources, the water problem is still serious."

Fu Tao from Tsinghua University, who specializes in desalinated seawater, said, "The pipe system from Caofeidian to Beijing is a huge program, and desalinating seawater will also exhaust much electricity and other energies, which will cost a lot of money and result in a very high price that people can't afford," he said.

But Fu added that, after larger programs were put into place, costs would drop.

"A larger scale of production brings lower costs," he said. "Besides, the government will also give subsidies to lower the water price."

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