13 Apr, 2016

Unfit for drinking – pollution from industry and agriculture found in groundwater

An article that was recently published in The New York Times reported, “according to Chinese media sources” greater than 80% of the water from underground wells used by many villages and small towns was unfit for drinking and bathing due to contamination. The sources of pollution were from industry and agriculture.

Although this is not a new problem in China, the severity has not been understood until recently. A new survey was carried out on water from 2,103 wells and showed that the shallow aquifer water contained contaminants including manganese, fluoride, triazoles and in some cases, heavy metals. However Ma Jun, a director from the Institute of Public and environmental Affairs in Beijing, contextualised the survey data and said that “the survey measured water sources relatively close to the surface and that many cities get their water from reservoirs that are hundreds or even thousands of feet deeper”. “Fewer and fewer cities are using the heavily polluted shallow-depth underground water.” “Most are digging deep wells for drinking. This is a very important distinction that must be made.”

The use of underground water in China is increasing. In 2011 the Ministry of Environment Protection suggested that “China’s use of underground water grew from 57 billion cubic meters a year in the 1970s to 110 billion cubic meters in 2009, providing nearly one-fifth of the country’s total supplies”.

Professor Dabo Guan from the University of East Anglia in Britain has been studying water pollution and scarcity in China. He commented that “deeper wells, thousands of feet in depth, were being dug in the search for clean water. In turn this would lead to increased pressure on the deep aquifer resource”.

The full article can be found at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/12/world/asia/china-underground-water-pollution.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0.