Underground water levels in Beijing are rising this year, reversing a nearly decadelong decline, in part because of conservation efforts tied to the Olympics.
Aquifer levels in the Chinese capital have risen about half a meter this year, after having fallen about one meter each year since 1999 due to drought. The shortage had forced the city to dig ever-deeper wells, which provide the bulk of its municipal water.
The increase comes despite warnings from environmentalists that the Olympics would contribute to a greater strain on Beijing’s water resources, with water being diverted from neighboring regions to supply everything from competition venues to the 40 million ornamental flowers around the city.
The government has rejected those admonitions. Officials say the water supply has benefited from unusually plentiful summer rains as well as decreasing demand and greater water recycling that the government pushed as part Beijing’s efforts toward a “Green Olympics.” Overall, water consumption fell to less than 3.4 billion cubic meters last year, from 4.04 billion cubic meters in 2000, officials say. Waste-water treatment rates have passed 90% as the city rolled out new treatment plants in time for the Games.