Tim Johnson of the San Jose Mercury News writes on polluted drinking water in China:
As China gallops toward the modern era, access to safe and clean drinking water is beyond the reach of hundreds of millions of rural and urban people. Chemical spills, rampant pollution and poor stewardship of the land have tainted much of the nation’s water supply, and the groundwater under 90 percent of China’s cities is contaminated.
The World Health Organization says 700 million of China’s 1.3 billion people drink water that doesn’t meet WHO’s minimum standards, primarily because of improper treatment of industrial, human and animal waste. Barely 20 percent of China’s sewage is adequately treated.
At least five major toxic spills and dozens of minor ones have sloshed into rivers in China in the past three months and made it into Chinese news reports. The accidents have been an embarrassment to President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, who have pledged to overturn policies that value economic growth over environmental protection.
Well-off residents of cities can buy bottled water, but impoverished Chinese have no choice but to drink tap or well water. They always boil it, which can kill bacteria and parasites but won’t remove chemical contaminants.