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January 23, 2010

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Tap water price hike might be in offing

SHANGHAI may raise its water price to cover rising costs and promote water conservation, environmental officials said yesterday afternoon.

With the city embarked on ambitious plans for water protection and upgrades to the pipe network, it may raise local water prices "in line with the cost and promoting the concept of water-saving among the public," Zhang Quan, director of Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau, said yesterday at a city government news briefing.

"Water is a resource and should be used economically," Zhang said. "Shanghai has invested over 80 billion yuan (US$11.7 billion) in the rounds of Three-Year Environmental Protection Action Plan since 2000."

The city raised the price of tap water on June 20 last year to 1.33 yuan per cubic meter from 1.03 yuan, and increased drainage fees to 1.08 yuan from 0.90 yuan.

On November 20 of this year, prices will be further adjusted to 1.63 yuan, and 1.30 yuan, respectively.

Despite these increases, Zhang said, "the city's water price is comparatively low among big cities in the nation."

Protection zones

Also at the press conference, officials said Shanghai has outlined the locations of new protection zones for four major drinking-water sources.

The four sources -- occupying 1,365 square kilometers, or 19.4 percent of the city area -- are the Qingcaosha and Dongfengxisha reservoirs in Chongming County; the Chenhang Reservoir in Baoshan District; and the upper reaches of the Huangpu River in Qingpu District.

Areas inside the zones are divided into three levels of protection. Zones classified as first-level protection areas, the most stringent, will be protected by enclosures. All activities not involving the drinking water supply will be banned. That means no farming, fishing, ships, nor swimming.

The classifications will be announced before March 1, when a new water-protection mandate, the Shanghai Drinking Water Resources Protection Regulation, goes into effect.

This rewrite of the environmental rules encompasses all local water resources. The previous regulation applied only to the water resources of the Huangpu River.


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