China’s Long March To Safe Drinking Water

by China Water Risk 2 March, 2015

Chinas Long March To Drinking Water 2015 Reprot - English2 March, 2015 – In wake of the expected ‘Water Pollution Prevention & Control Action Plan’ China Water Risk and chinadialogue investigated the true status of China’s urban and rural drinking water in the report “China’s Long March To Safe Drinking Water”.

Ambitious goals and a RMB700 billion budget were set to increase water supply and to safeguard water quality from source-to-tap in the 12 Five Year Plan. Also, the government is expecting cities across China to meet the national drinking water standard by 2015.

2015 is here. The report looks at how close China is to meeting these goals. Overall, access and delivery of water has increased but quality still uncertain with 68 kinds of antibiotics detected. The issues hindering China from “completely solving” drinking water are: ambiguous ownership, unclear water pricing mechanisms, immature market mechanisms, a lack of rural business models and governance issues. More highlights from the report below.

Key highlights are:

  • A privileged 600 million urban residents have safe drinking water but quality issues remain in secondary water supply and pipe network with discolored water & excessive bacteria levels;
  • Complete resolution of safe rural drinking water is a ‘mission impossible’ say experts; in 2010, 298 million rural Chinese still lack access to safe drinking water;
  • Imbalanced investment between urban & rural, RMB410 billion and RMB175 billion respectively;
  • Mixed views on who should bear costs; limited government funds & 31% public supply companies face loss;
  • No matter the quality, water supply will continue as it is a public service; supply will only stop if there is a “major incident”;
  • China’s ‘National Drinking Water Quality Standard’ is in accordance with international standards but lacks domestic tailoring and is too stringent for some areas of China;
  • Urban public has high expectations to meet all 106 indicators of standard but data from self-testing show cities are far from this; and
  • Only 1 in 10 punished for substandard quality samples by Ministry of Health.

The 13 Five Year plan is expected to plug gaps China’s drinking water safety like water safety protection, water conservation reform and drinking water safety legislation.

China’s march to safe drinking water is still long and there are big challenges ahead, as Premier Li Keqiang said during a visit to the Ministry of Water Resources in November 2014, the remaining tasks are all “hard bones” .But this is an important march as Liu Wenjun (Director of Safe Drinking Water Institute at Tsinghua University) reminds us, “water is a basic human need; it’s not an optional requirement”.

Some scholars think China is on the wrong path to safe drinking water. Get a comprehensive view on these issues now.

The report is available in English  & Chinese.

If you are in China and the English report is taking a while to download, please click here.

Chinas Long March To Safe Drinking Water 2015 - CH2015年3月2日 饮用水安全将是即将出台的《水污染防治行动规划》(也即“水十条”)的重要内容。在“水十条”将出之际,中国水危机与中外对话试图在联合报告《安全饮用水:中国的艰难长征》中对中国城市与农村供水的实际状况一探究竟。




  • 6亿多中国城市居民可以享受城市公共供水服务。管网输配过程中的“二次污染”导致的自来水发黄,细菌超标等,是入户水水质不达标的重要原因;
  • 专家说全面解决农村饮水安全是“不可能完成的任务”。2010年尚有2.98亿农村人口缺乏安全饮水;
  • 在解决城镇和农村饮水安全问题上的投资不平衡,分别为4100亿和1750亿人民币;
  • 业界对改造成本的来源存有分歧:政府拨付款项有限,而且公共供水企业亏损面为31%;
  • 由于自来水的公共服务属性,无论水质达标与否,水厂都会维持生产,除非遇到重大突发事件;
  • 《生活饮用水卫生标准》虽然与国际标准接轨,但是缺乏国内的基础研究支持,对一些地区而言过于严苛,难与环境现状接轨;
  • 城镇居民期望饮用水水质能符合水质标准中的全部指标,但是民间自发的水质检测揭示了实际存在的风险与挑战;
  • 大约十个不合格饮用水样品中,卫生部门只会针对其中一起进行处罚。