Beijing badly lacks water, but much of the available supply is slurped up by luxury apartments and bottling plants. Friends of Nature researchers have recently drawn attention to the additional drain of the million tons a year pumped into artificial snow machines at 17 skiing facilities around the city. From China Daily:
“The key problem is not how much water is being taken up by the skiing industry, but whether it is suitable for such a water-guzzling industry to thrive in Beijing, a city that is already thirsty,” co-author Hu Kanping told METRO.
Last winter was the driest in more than six decades, resulting in water resource authorities putting Beijing’s shortage at an estimated 1.8 billion cubic meters. However, visitor numbers to the capital during Spring Festival rose more than 50 percent in 2010, with many hitting the slopes, according to statistics from the city’s tourism office.
Hu warned that the skiing industry also soaks up huge amounts of electricity, with almost 500 kW hours of electricity per day needed to power just one snowmaker, while construction of ski runs also requires chopping down any trees in the way, which causes serious ecological damage to mountainous areas.
“When the snow melts in spring, the mountains will be bald, causing sand dust (storms) in the city and soil erosion,” he added.
As a member with the Friends of Nature, Hu has worked on a series of studies looking into the consumption of water by luxury industries in Beijing, which are all included in the annual report.
The theme for 2011 is skiing, while last year he focused on the bathing industry – including saunas and swimming pools – and found that the number of thermal springs and spas in the capital increased from 39 in 1989 to more than 3,000.
The average water consumption of a guest is three to five times the daily amount used by an ordinary citizen. Next year, Hu will explore the golf industry.
Artificial snow of another sort was induced by seeding clouds in an effort to quench China’s brutal winter drought.
Mooted solutions to the north’s water shortages include the epic South-North Water Diversion project and a new breed of desalination plants. However, as chinadialogue argued in December, real solutions must involve behavioural changes as well as engineering.