May 07, 2012 06:34 PM

The Dirty Truth about Water Quality


(Beijing) – China plans to adopt stricter quality standards for drinking water in July, but treatment facilities nationwide are hard-pressed to meet existing criteria. Experts say half of the country's water supply plants cannot meet current standards. 

A 2009 government survey of more than 4,000 urban water supply plants found more than one-quarter failed to meet national standards, said Song Lanhe, chief scientist of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development's water quality monitor center. The results of the survey have not been released to the public.

Sources close to the ministry said the actual number of problematic treatment plants exposed by the survey could be as high as 50 percent. Song did not rule out, or confirm, the estimate.

But Song did say "the situation has yet to improve" since 2009.

New regulations to be implemented on July 1 are modeled after drinking standards in the European Union. They are the result of six years of deliberation and the joint efforts of five governmental agencies led by the Ministry of Health. But the absence of punitive measures makes it a law without teeth.

The new regulations will mostly serve as guidance and are hard to mandatorily implement, Song said. Local governments will continue to claim that water quality met standards when it did not, Song said.

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