It is not just the air the Chinese breathe that is polluted, the water they are expected to drink too is becoming hazardous at an alarming rate, according to a government survey.
The survey showed more than 80% of underground water in China that is potable is polluted, with overexploitation adding to the problem.
A survey of 2,103 water wells across the country in 2015 revealed the disturbing findings.
Sifting through the data, government analysts found that not a single well surveyed was up to Class I (the best grade).
China’s water resources ministry has codified drinking water into five categories, with Class V (five) being the worst.
“The ministry found that no water sources were up to the standards of Class I, while 19.9% were classified as Class II and Class III. Water in the last two categories, which are unfit for human consumption, accounted for 32.9% and 47.3%, respectively,” the report said.
State media quoted the survey as saying that ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates are the major pollutants, while heavy metals and toxic organic compounds too were found in some areas.
The report said “China’s underground water has been over-extracted. In January 2016, underground water reserves in China’s major plains decreased.”
The findings are alarming but should not have come as a complete shock.
The environmental protection ministry had said in a report last year that nearly two-thirds of groundwater and a third of surface water was unfit for direct human use by 2014.
State media reports said previous statistics from the land and resources ministry showed that nearly 70% of Chinese people drink water from underground sources.
“In Chinese cities, drinking water often comes from deep underground sources, which are not easily polluted, but in the countryside, people often drink shallow underground water where pollution has a bigger impact,” Ma Jun, head of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told government portal China.org.
The report further revealed China’s underground water has been over-extracted. In January 2016, underground water reserves in China’s major plains decreased by 8.24 billion cubic meters (approximately 8.24 billion tons) from a year ago.