China announced plans to spend $330 billion dollars to clean up its water resources. The Ministry of Environmental Protection said the budget has been finalized, although the timeline and specifics are still being discussed.
The commitment to dealing with water pollution exceeds the $277 billion China has already allotted to tackling air pollution. These massive figures reveal the scope of environmental challenges in China, as well as an increasing commitment from government to tackle the problem.
China has one fifth of the world’s population, but only 7 percent of its water resources. As China’s economy grows, meeting the challenge of water pollution will be increasingly important, given the scarcity of water.
The new funding will be invested in wastewater treatment, recycling of water, and membrane technology. The investments can’t happen soon enough. In 2012, the government conducted a survey of over 5,000 groundwater checkpoints looking for pollution. They found that 53.7% of all samples were heavily polluted.
China’s reliance on coal for energy increases the stress on its water supplies. Coal power generation can use enormous amounts of water to suppress dust and clean the fuel before it is combusted.
The central committee in Beijing has signaled that it will start taking pollution into consideration when monitoring the performance of local governments. This could re-shape how investments and industrialization in China unfold, as municipalities will have to abide by stricter standards and show meaningful improvement on environmental issues.
In Canada, new federal regulations will require an aggressive build-out of wastewater treatment over the next two decades. Technologies developed here could find conducive markets in China, particularly considering the scale of new investment and the variety of environmental challenges the country faces.