Qiantang River is the largest river in China’s Zhejiang Province, providing drinking water for most of the 15 million people living in the river basin. It is called the “Mother River” of Zhejiang.
In the last few decades, with rapid economic growth, huge volumes of untreated wastewater and solid waste were dumped into the river, polluting the water and environment. This in turn poses a serious threat to the living conditions and the safety of drinking water of a large number of urban and rural residents.
While larger cities have made good progress in improving environmental services in recent years, small towns are lagging behind. Water supply is estimated to be safe in only 29% of Zhejiang’s small towns. Wastewater treatment coverage rate in small towns is only 26%. Sanitary solid waste disposal facilities are almost non-existent.
In 2011, with World Bank support, the Zhejiang Qiantang River Basin Small Town Environment Project was launched to improve the environment in the Qiantang River Basin. The project invested in building water supply, wastewater collection and treatment, and solid waste facilities in 22 small towns and two urban districts.
Providing safe drinking water
Zhuji City, located in the middle of the Qiantang River Basin, is known as the world’s largest producer of socks. In 2014 alone, 25.8 billion pairs of socks and tights were produced in the city.
Population growth has increased demand for water and put a strain on the existing water supply. Residents in some areas of Zhuji had no access to tap water. Where there was, it would be inadequate or intermittent due to low water pressure.
Financed by the project, the Qingshan Water Treatment Plant was built and went into operation in 2014. It supplies water to more than 200,000 residents in four towns under Zhuji City.
Yang Lihong is a resident of Shangyu Village of Caota Town. Tap water has made her life much easier. “We used to drink well water. It had germs. Tap water is clean. It is also more convenient to wash clothes with tap water,” said Yang.
For the 1,800 residents in Lingshui Village in the same town, it also means lower health risks. “We used to drink water from the well and the river. It’s not safe. People got cancer and diarrhea. With the new water plant, we get safe drinking water, and villagers are happy,” said Qi Guochu, the village headman.
Businesses also benefit from the improved water supply. Socks manufacturer Datang Dongfangyuan Co., has 500 employees. Getting water to the higher floors of this factory used to be a problem. “Now we get water even on the sixth floor, with no need for a pressure pump. The water flow is also more stable,” said Wang Xubing, the company’s administrative manager.