Water shortages are hindering Beijing's further development, the city's Vice Mayor Niu Youcheng has said.
"The relationship between water and people should concern us more and be better handled," he said on Wednesday, on the sidelines of an international forum debating the sustainable use of water resources.
Beijing's water levels fall when winter approaches, Jiao Zhizhong, director of Beijing's water authority, said.
Even so, a multi-source water supply scheme scheduled for 2010 should guarantee the water supply, Jiao said.
Using surface, underground and recycled water, rainfall and a giant south-to-north water diversion project will help achieve this, he said.
"Water supply and demand will be balanced by then," Jiao said.
Currently, drinking water for the city's 15 million population comes mainly from the Miyun reservoir and underground water.
Miyun reservoir has a capacity of nearly 4.4 billion cu m, but holds just 700 million cu m of water because of droughts in recent years.
This is not enough to satisfy Beijing's thirst. The city consumed 3.43 billion cu m of water last year
The 2.73 billion cu m shortfall is made up from underground water and small-scale water diversion projects from neighboring Hebei and Shanxi provinces.
The over exploitation of underground water has led to low water levels, dry springs and lakes, and land subsidence.
A report by the Guangzhou-based People Week magazine said Beijing's exploitable underground water capacity is 2.5 billion cu m per year.
An additional 400 million cu m is exploited every year.
After drought, inefficient use of water is believed to be another major reason for the scarcity of water.
"Wasting water is a much more pressing issue than water shortages," Wu Jisong, an official from China's water resources watchdog, said.
Beginning in the late 1990s, Beijing has experienced a prolonged drought with an annual rainfall of just 600 mm a year on average.
(Xinhua News Agency November 10, 2007)