China is shaking up the way it charges for water.
The government has plans to roll out "wide-reaching reforms in how it prices water by the end of next year, charging higher prices for the heaviest urban consumers to conserve diminishing resources and spur investment," the Wall Street Journal reported.
How will the new rate structure look? "The new system, which will be in place by the end of 2015 and will extend existing trials in some locales, will include a three-tiered pricing structure based on water use for households in all cities and some towns," the report said.
Most people will not be impacted. "Under the plan, the heaviest consumers—or top 5 percent of households—will pay at least three times the base rate of water. The second tier will pay 1.5 times the base rate, while the lowest tier—roughly 80 percent of urban households—wouldn't be affected by the changes," the report said.
The reforms signal that China might start investing more in water treatment, according to the report.
"Reforms to the pricing system are likely a precursor to new drinking-water standards, which could be in place by 2015. Such higher standards will require new investment in water treatment, say experts," the report said.
"Ultimately, quality standards can only be raised when tariffs are adjusted more comprehensively," Debra Tan, director of China Water Risk, an advocacy group based in Hong Kong, said in the report.
Drinking water in China faces major quality challenges.
"China’s more than 4,700 underground water-quality testing stations show that nearly three-fifths of all water supplies are 'relatively bad' or worse. Roughly half of rural residents lack access to drinking water that meets international standards," the New York Times reported.
In short, "the quality of its water supply has failed to keep up with the country’s leap into modernity," the report said.
Scarcity is a problem, as well. "The United Nations says China is one of 13 countries with extreme water shortages," CNN reported.
For more on tap water issues, check out Water Online's Drinking Water Analysis Solution Center.
Image credit: "Shangai, Apr-2012," © 2012 maltman23, used under a Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
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