About 250,000 people in Hebei Province, which neighbors Beijing, are facing drinking water shortages due to winter drought, government authorities said on Monday.
The number could double next month, the provincial water conservancy department said, adding that 3.3 million hectares of crops have also been affected.
The amount of usable water in the province's reservoirs stands at 1.9 billion cu m, less than a third of the total capacity and 500 million cu m below the long-term average. Some reservoirs have run dry, the department said.
Most areas have seen just seven mm of rain since last winter, down nearly 60 percent on the seasonal average, the department said.
Meanwhile, the water table in the plains is up to three m lower than last year in many areas. As a result, some 50,000 motorized wells have been rendered useless and up to 170,000 wells are short of water, the department said.
Since last year, the local government has allocated 1.9 billion yuan (US$266 million) to combat the drought, including the construction of 220,000 relief projects and the development of 36,000 hectares of irrigated areas.
(Xinhua News Agency February 27, 2008)