Beijing to raise water prices this year - report

BEIJING, May 10 (Reuters) - The Chinese capital of Beijing will raise water prices this year as it tries to conserve precious supplies, China News Service reported, citing a local official.

Cheng Jing, the head of Beijing's water resources bureau, told a conference on Sunday the city would draw up price hike plans within the next two months.

He said the postponement of a project aimed at diverting 1 billion cubic metres of water a year to the capital had put the arid city under even more pressure to conserve.

Northern China's already scarce water supplies have been worsened by rapid rates of industrialisation, wasteful irrigation projects and the pollution of underground water tables throughout the region.

According to figures from the Ministry of Water Resources, Beijing's usable water supplies are around 300 cubic metres per capita, only a third of the national rate, and another 110 cities face serious supply problems.

The situation prompted the central government to launch the North-South Water Diversion scheme, an ambitious 500 billion yuan ($73.32 billion) project aimed at diverting water from the Yangtze river and its tributaries.

Part of the plan involved channeling water to Beijing from the Danjiangkou Dam on the Yangtze River in central China's Hubei province. It was originally scheduled to be completed next year, but it has been delayed until 2014 amid environmental concerns.

Beijing aims to restrict total water consumption to 3.58 billion cubic metres this year. ($1 = 6.819 Yuan)

Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Sugita Katyal