Villagers crowd around to receive water in Luoyang, Henan Province, on Aug. 4, 2014. (Photo : Getty Images)
China’s deep groundwater resources are safe to drink, the Ministry of Water Resources said on Monday in response to media reports suggesting a majority of the country’s aquifers are too polluted.
In a Global Times report published Tuesday, more than 80 percent of China's underground sources of drinking water are unfit for human consumption, citing the latest monthly report from the ministry that sampled 2,103 wells used for monitoring China's eastern flatland watersheds.
The report, which was made public on Monday, classified 32.9 percent of the sampled wells as suitable only for industrial and agricultural use, while 47.3 percent were unfit for consumption of any type.
Following the report's release, government officials sought to reassure the public that most of the water used in urban Chinese households is safe because it comes from deep underground reservoirs that are treated to ensure safety.
"The quality of drinking water is good overall," Chen Mingzhong, a senior official from the Ministry of Water Resources, told reporters at a news conference.
Chen said that 85 percent of the 1,817 groundwater resources used for drinking water meet quality standards, while the 33 sources that supply drinking water to cities with a population larger than 500,000 all comply with water quality standards.
"However, many people in rural areas are still drinking shallow groundwater. Contamination could affect them," he added
Incidents of water contamination in China have increased in recent years, with more than 1,700 reported annually and affecting at least 140 million people in urban areas.
"The report shows that the issue of groundwater quality is very severe, since the samples are relatively wide-ranging, which can at least cover 30 to 50 percent of China," said Mu Jianxin of the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research.
Environmental group Greenpeace said that the ministry report is "another stark warning of the extent of groundwater pollution" in China, adding that water pollution is as serious as the recent air pollution woes affecting Beijing and other major Chinese cities
"The pollution to groundwater will threaten local people's health and contaminate local crops," Ada Kong, toxics campaign manager for Greenpeace East Asia, told the Global Times. "It could also cause a geological hazard as the overuse of groundwater could cause land subsidence."