Officials Plan to Raise the Water Price Again in Beijing

May 31, 2005

To increase public awareness of the importance of water conservation, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced plans to raise the price of water again in Beijing, from 3.7 to 4.5 yuan per cubic meter, according to Chinese news reports (1, 2). The government has kept the price of water in China artificially low, likely because of fears that higher prices will lead to social unrest, according to some Western experts.

Officials have increased the price of water in Beijing a number of times in recent years, to encourage individuals and industries to conserve water. Nevertheless, waste and shortages have become increasingly severe, according to the reports. In addition, Chinese farmers use more than twice as much water as farmers in more developed countries, and 10 to 20 times more water for industrial production. Water shortages are threatening both drinking water and irrigation sources, according to a May 11 China Daily article.

The water price increase may also be part of a plan to generate funds to address rural water shortages. In March, National People’s Congress delegates suggested creating a rural water fund by increasing urban area water prices, reports a March 11 People’s Daily article. Water shortages affect one third of the rural population, according to official and news media reports (1, 2). While existing efforts to increase water conservation awareness are useful, poor infrastructure for transporting water still poses problems, according to experts and reports from the Ministry of Water Resources. Less than half of the water diverted from reservoirs to rural areas reaches its intended destination, according to a People’s Daily article.