Beijing car wash threatens water resources

Water is a very scarce resource in Beijing China, the city’s naturally available water per head have decreased from 325 m3 in 2002 to around 100 m3 in 2011, this was reported by the Xinhua News Agency. The remaining water must come from outside the city.

Beijing is trying with some aggressive water pricing to make people aware of the problem, but few people are aware of the problem, currently households are charged 4 Yuan about 65 $ cents per m3 and businesses are charged 60 Yuan which is 9.70 $ per m3 .

Income rises fast in Beijing and with that comes the luxury industry such as car washes, golf courts, ski slopes and bath centers. All have a big impact on water resources because they are intensive water users.

Beijing has over 5 million cars on the road and the amount of cars all over china is growing rapidly. In 2010, China had 90 million vehicles on its roads, and the figure raise sharply to more than 120 million by the end of 2012. The number of cars is expected to raise between 260 and 330 million in 2020, with 70 percent of the vehicles in cities.

china car sales graph

The 5 million cars have a big environmental impact on air quality in Beijing and have a large carbon footprint. Coming back to water, to keep the cars clean in Beijing from severe pollution and airborne dust, at least 6.5 million cubic meters of water are used every year. The water used to clean the cars is mostly tap water rather than re-treated water, according to a report from Friends of Nature. 6.5 million cubic meters of water can sustain about 170.000 people for 1 year in Beijing.

The high pricing of water to businesses is bringing another problem to the table, some car washes illegally use household tap water. Another option for the car washes is to use retreated water, this cost about 1 Yuan per m3 significantly cheaper than any other water resource. Due to the high transport fee 14 to 19 Yuan per m3 only few car washes use this option. It’s  said that less than 0.1% of the retreated water provided every year is used by the car washes.

Its important that we get on top of this situation either by building more re-treated water pipelines in Beijing or by moving car washes closer the source of available re-treated water.

Featured image thanks to Theen Moy