SHANGHAI China will keep national annual water consumption below 670 billion cubic meters (bcm) through to 2020, the state planning agency said on Wednesday, part of efforts to ease chronic regional shortages by cutting waste and boosting efficiency.
The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said it would also aim to cap total water consumption at less than 700 bcm a year though to 2030.
China has long been worried about a water supply bottleneck that could jeopardize future economic development, with per capita supplies at less than a third of the global average.
Consumption last year stood at 635 billion cubic meters, up from 554.8 bcm in 2004, and China's scarce supplies have been put under increasing pressure from growing demand for agriculture, energy and manufacturing, as well as a rising population and widespread pollution problems.
Despite commitments to crack down on polluters, the quality of water in rivers, lakes and reservoirs in several regions has deteriorated significantly, according to inspection teams reporting back to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
In a document published on Wednesday, the NDRC pledged to ensure that three quarters of its surface water was fit for human consumption by 2030, up from 66 percent last year, and it also promised to ensure that underground water extraction rates were sustainable.
It also included targets to improve soil quality, reduce overuse of pesticides and fertilizer, and tackle overgrazing on China's grasslands.
China said in a five-year plan on water pollution published earlier this month that it would cut water use per unit of GDP by 23 percent over the 2016-2020 period, and would also "significantly reduce" the amount used in irrigation.
It also pledged to introduce tiered water pricing in urban regions in a bid to encourage conservation, and said it would also create a water usage quota system covering all major agricultural and industrial products.
(Reporting by David Stanway; Additional reporting by Dominique Patton in BEIJING; Editing by Richard Pullin)