China will improve its monitoring of drinking water sources by establishing national standards, better controlling poisonous contaminates and creating early warning systems, according to an official at the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Speaking at an ecological forum that wrapped up on June 21, Ling Jiang, deputy director of the ministry’s Pollution Prevention Department said a monitoring report from last year, which showed that 95.3 percent of water sources for 113 major cities met national standards, may present an overly optimistic picture of the true situation.
For one thing, the testing was based on surface water standards since the country does not have special national standards for drinking water. These surface water standards contain only 20 indicators, meaning, “some harmful and poisonous contaminants for drinking water were not included,” state news agency Xinhua quoted him as saying.
"We can not conclude that the water sources are of good quality only because these routine indicators meet the criteria," Ling added.
The ministry will also improve monitoring of both quantity and quality of groundwater, he said. This effort will include a pollution prevention mechanism, to be established within five years, which involves better control of contaminants from known sources like the chemical industry, which has been a large threat to drinking water sources.
"It, however, will be extremely difficult for the government to trace and monitor chemical products from production, transportation to usage," Ling warned.
He said the new judicial document handed down by the Supreme Court in June, which states that all discharging of radioactive waste and waste that contains infectious pathogens or toxic materials into drinking water sources and nature reserves will now be considered crimes of polluting the environment, should help curb pollution.
"Compared with administrative punishment, the judicial document will increase the costs of environmental pollution, which was previously believed to have been too low to curb polluting activities," Ling said.
A report released last month by the Ministry of Environmental Protection said the country’s water quality is “far from optimistic.”
Earlier this month, a south China river was found to be polluted with toxic metals resulting from improper discharges from mining operations. The contamination directly affected tens of thousands of people and threatened water supplies for tens of millions in the Pearl River Delta.