April 29, 2014 / 3:41 PM / 5 years ago

Thirsty Beijing to raise water prices in conservation push

BEIJING, April 29 (Reuters) - China’s water-stressed capital Beijing will raise water prices from next month with a new tiered pricing system to put more of the burden on heavy business users as it seeks to protect scare resources, state media reported on Tuesday.

While more than 90 percent of households will see prices rise by just 1 yuan ($0.16) per cubic metre, from 4 yuan to 5 yuan, there will be a much larger increase for big industrial consumers, Xinhua news agency said.

Major water consumers such as car-washes and bath houses will see prices jump to 160 yuan per cubic metre, from the a previous range of between 61.68 yuan and 81.68 yuan, the report said.

Golf courses and ski resorts - many of which rely on artificial snow machines in arid Beijing - will also pay for 160 yuan per cubic meter, it added.

“For those big consumers, we hope the new pricing system will push them to consider upgrading their facilities for water saving and recycling,” Xinhua quoted Liu Bin, deputy head of the Beijing Water Authority, as saying.

Beijing’s annual water consumption has reached 3.6 billion cubic meters, “which is at a huge environmental cost”, Liu added.

The city has only 100 cubic meters of water available per person, just a tenth of the U.N. “danger threshold”, Xinhua said.

Underground water levels in Beijing have dropped 12.8 meters since 1998 with some 6.5 billion cubic meters of ground water overpumped, Liu added.

Money raised from the increased charges will be used in a special fund for saving water and be invested in water saving schemes as well as improving public awareness of the issue, Xinhua added.

Situated close to the outlying parts of the Gobi Desert, Beijing can go for months without significant rainfall, especially in the winter, while dramatic summer storms flood the streets and overwhelm drains.

Despite public concern about China’s rapidly degrading environment, awareness of water conservation is low in many parts of the country, especially in Beijing, where hosepipes can be left running all day to water gardens and other green spaces. ($1 = 6.2530 Chinese Yuan) (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Alison Williams)

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