China to Improve Wastewater Recycling in Next Five Years

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  • China to Improve Wastewater Recycling in Next Five Years

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    China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and nine other departments have jointly published a guideline on January 11, to facilitate the reuse of wastewater in the country over the next five years, as reported by Sina on the next day. According to the guideline, China aims to raise the usage rate of reclaimed water to at least 25% by 2025 in water-scarce cities, and to more than 35% for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. To achieve the target, NDRC specifically called for the reuse of sewage in industrial production, livestock and poultry breeding, and fish farming. By 2035, the country expects to fully establish an organized, safe, eco-friendly, and economical wastewater recycling system.

    Citing data from Sina, China’s per capita available water resource currently stands at around 2,051 cubic meters, approximately one-fourth of the global average, while the figure for the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region even comes to below 500. The country is also facing a water shortage of about 50bn cubic meters on average each year. In the past five years, the Chinese central government has launched a series of measures to improve sewage treatment in the country, including government subsidies and tax reduction or exemption, and has even set up a national water rights trading platform in 2016. Between 2016 and 2020, China was estimated to have invested a total of RMB1.39tr in wastewater treatment, tripling the figure in the previous five years.

    As a result, the total number of wastewater treatment plants across China grew from 1,096 by 2007, to 5,333 as of September 2019, with 53.4% implementing the highest discharge standard. In addition, the country’s daily wastewater treatment capacity also jumped to over 190m cubic meters by 2019. In 2019, China’s wastewater treatment rate hit 96.81%, with a CAGR of 1.2% between 2015 and 2019.

    Meanwhile, only around 11.61bn cubic meters of wastewater was reclaimed in 2019, accounting for only around 20% of the total wastewater discharged in the same year, indicating much room for improvement. So far, some Chinese cities have taken the initiative to improve sewage water recycling and reuse. In 2019, the usage rates of reclaimed water in Qingdao and Tianjin have reached above 45% and over 40%, respectively, while Wuxi is logging an over 80% reutilization rate of its industrial wastewater. According to BCC Research, China’s wastewater treatment market size is expected to expand from USD42.1bn in 2017 to USD58.2bn in 2022, with a CAGR of 6.7% during the period.


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