A senior Chinese official says pollution and industrial mismanagement are threatening water supplies in nearly 300 cities. The government is planning to spend $125 billion in the next five years to try to fix the problem.
China's Vice Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing says China's urban water supply is
"In some areas, the worsening water sources, pollution and the frequent water pollution accidents have seriously threatened the water quality," he said.
Speaking to reporters in Beijing Tuesday, Qui blamed rapid urbanization, industrialization and agriculture for tainting water supplies in hundreds of cities.
But he also admitted the government has failed to keep up with the country's sewage treatment needs, saying 278 cities still lack any wastewater treatment facilities.
Tens of millions of Chinese do not have safe drinking water.
China had 327 million urban water users last year, 79 million more than in 2000. Qui says China's urban growth rate will only accelerate in the next few years, resulting in unprecedented demands for water.
"China's city and industrial water resource needs will possibly start off regional water crises."
China is also using water inefficiently, consuming up to 10 times more than developed countries to produce the same amount of industrial added value.
Qiu says another problem is city water pipes are leaking up to 20 percent of water they carry.
China is now planning to spend $125 billion in the next five years to correct the problems.
Qiu says significantly raising water prices, a common way of encouraging conservation, is not practical in China because incomes are too low.