Wastewater Pollution in China
Kris Min


Wastewater pollution has always been a major problem throughout the world. The lack of suitable water used for drinking, agriculture, farming, etc. has declined through the years. With a shortage of water throughout the world, proper methods of treating and recycling water is the key goal in sustaining our limited water resource supply. Geographically speaking, the wastewater pollution within China has affected the environment, society, and agriculture. The water pollution crisis in China has brought up an issue of efficient wastewater treatment methods to help alleviate their problems. Throughout this paper, we will discuss the topics on the effects of wastewater pollution towards the environment and the society (health factors, agriculture, economic impacts, etc). At the same time, proposals for wastewater treatment procedures and facilities to help the water crisis in China will be discussed.


The lack of clean water has always been an issue of environmental concern all over the world. This environmental issue is mainly stressed in developing countries today. The main sources of water pollution are: industrial (chemical, organic, and thermal wastes), municipal (largely sewage consisting of human wastes, other organic wastes, and detergents), and agricultural (animal wastes, pesticides, and fertilizers) (Brower et.al, 1990). For the past several years, China has been affected with the water pollution crisis. Three examples of wastewater pollution crisis in China are the City of Tianjin, the Chao Lakes and Xian City.

City of Tianjin is the third largest industrial city in China. For many years, the construction of urban drainage, sewage, and wastewater treatment (domestic and industrial) has lagged far behind the development and environmental requirements for the city. A wastewater Improvement Project has been introduced and co-financed by the Tianjin Municipal Government and the World Bank to help improve the city’s water conditions. This project focuses on sewage collection and treatment, as well as measures used to improve the institutional controls on sewage and pollution control. To ensure that the Tianjin Municipal Government achieves its overall objectives of optimizing water consumption and reducing pollution loads, an emphasis on the reduction of industrial water consumption and the improvement of effluent discharge quality (X. Ching Wu et. al, n/d).

The problem not only lies in the city of Tianjin, but the second example of wastewater pollution in China lies in the east central part of China, 300 miles west of Shanghai, lies the Chao Lake, one of China's five largest freshwater lakes. This area's main source of potable water supply comes from the Chao Lake. This lake is also used for as an economic and recreational resource. The water is used for commercial and recreational fishing, and as a source for irrigation. In recent years, the rapid development of industrial and urban areas, and changes in agricultural practices, have caused damage to the lake. Although pretreatment or final treatment of industrial wastewater has controlled pollution by heavy metals, toxic or hazardous substances, the lake has become overloaded with nutrients. These nutrients are contributed from municipal and industrial wastewater due to soil erosion and from excessive applications of chemical fertilizers on agricultural land. As a solution to restore the lake's water quality and to improve the health and economic concerns for the area, The Asian Development Bank (ADB) appointed the Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM). The ADB appointed the CDM to conduct a feasibility study to develop a possible project for the construction of municipal wastewater treatment facilities (Dresser, n/d).

In addition to the two other locations in China, Xian City, Shaanxi Province, in China with a population of 2.8 million within the urban area has dealt with major water pollution problems in the past years. There are many industries located in this City. Vast quantities of untreated domestic and industrial wastewater flow into small streams leading to the Wei River. The water systems have become severely polluted. As the water is reused further downstream for irrigation and household purposes, there is an environmental and health concern for the population (Krüger,1997). A project was proposed for a new wastewater treatment plant in Xian City. This project is cost-effective and environmentally friendly method of treating sewage.

Since most of these water systems are used in society as irrigation for farmlands and personal water consumption, there are many social aspects to consider. In terms of agriculture, with the water shortage currently taking place, China’s grain production has been affected. To obtain water for grain production, rivers are drained dry and aquifers are depleted by the country's soaring water needs (Brown et al., 1988). Since the demand for water is so high, China's farmers face strong competition for water from local cities and industries. The demands for water by industries are projected to grow from 52 billion tons in 1995 to 269 billion tons in 2030. Residential demand for water is also projected to increase from 31 billion tons at the same time (Brown, et al., 1998).

Concerning the health factors of the society, we must take into consideration the number of innocent people that are affected by the polluted waters. These health factors include the affects on humans due to the toxins and hazardous pollutants in the water system. Many waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhoid have affected China for the past several years through groundwater contamination. These epidemics have lead to either hospitalization or even death (Cholera Epidemics in Shanghai & Hong Kong, n/d). Pesticides in drinking water have also been a problem to the health of the community. Majority of the pesticides used in agriculture contains carcinogens and endocrine disrupters (Pesticide in Groundwater, 1995). Not only do pesticides affect humans, but also the environment in terms of ground water contamination which can affect the natural hydrologic cycle.

From an environmental analysis, the disruption of the environment and the ecosystem would alter the natural capital of China. These environmental concerns includes: wetlands, groundwater contamination (also affect hydrologic cycle), the effects on plant biomass, the effects on wildlife habitat due to pollutants, and an overall negative ecosystem impact.

Environmental issues are important, however, other important factors come into play. There are potential political, economical and technical issues to consider. As for the economical concerns, China would have to take into consideration the total cost to build/fund a new project on a wastewater treatment plant. By building a wastewater treatment plant, the land availability has to be flexible enough to establish areas with the new treatment facilities. By doing so, parts of land that already have existing industries and farmlands will be displaced to compensate for the new development sites. During the project duration, this would affect the industry as well as the agriculture production of China. By jeopardizing vital land, we must calculate on how much of the water quality would be improved through a wastewater treatment plant. To improve the water quality to a maximum, technical aspects must be reviewed. These technical aspects on proposing an acceptable wastewater treatment methods include the types of treatment that can be used for treating wastewater, the efficiency of the wastewater treatment plants by observing the effluents produced, project duration, and the practicality of using the different types of wastewater treatment.

Considering the social, environmental, economical, and technical aspects concerning the wastewater treatment projects, several projects have been proposed within China to deal with the wastewater pollution problem. The projects include the analysis and recommendations for financial, social, environmental, and technical issues to improve China’s wastewater management practices. By improving the wastewater conditions, this will contribute to help restore the lake's water quality, and to improve the health and economic prospects throughout China’s cities.


In order to maintain an acceptable water quality level, we must understand the maximum level of pollution within a water system, which will not be harmful to the population at any cost. The major concern towards society is to protect the health of the community. For example, within the city of Tianjin, for the past 20 years since there has been a severe shortage of water, and the farmers have been using untreated wastewater (municipal combined with industrial) for agricultural and drinking purposes. Municipal and industrial waters contain chemicals, organic, and thermal wastes, and sewage consisting of human wastes.

Waterborne Diseases

Most of these municipal pollutants contribute to the increase in disease transmissions of water borne diseases. Waterborne diseases are commonly contracted when bathing in fecal- and urine-polluted streams and canals or can be transmitted by the bite of an insect vector that breeds in polluted waters. Coliform bacteria is often used as indicators of sewage contamination, and the possible presence of microbial pathogens that are hazardous to human health (Benarde, 1989). Several examples of water borne diseases are cholera, typhoid, and dysentery, which occur at a higher rate in the developing countries such as China. Within only a three-month period, there were 1,547 cases with 468 deaths reported in Shanghai and Hongkong due to cholera (Cholera Epidemics in Shanghai & Hongkong, n/d). Not only in does Shanghai and Hongkong deal with cholera, all parts of the Lower Yangtze region, as well as in other provinces in Eastern China, has been indicated with the cholera epidemic. Other waterborne diseases, such as typhoid and dysentery (both forms), .are also epidemic in the Shanghai area due to wastewater pollution (Cholera Epidemic in Shanghai & Hongkong, n/d).

Irrigation and Agriculture

Not only does the city of Tianjin use the water system for irrigation; Chao Lake also uses the contaminated wastewater as a source for irrigation. Chao Lake is one of China's five largest freshwater lakes. Located in Anhui Province, the lake serves Hefei, the capital of Anhui Province (population 1.1-million), and Chaohu City, (population 170,000) for irrigation purposes. Since most of the water is used for irrigation of farmlands, the lack of suitable water has decreased. Since contaminated effluents from industrial plants near by have polluted most of the water supply, the water supply has decreased, increasing the demand for water. China depends on irrigated lands to produce about 70 percent of the grain to supply a population of 1,2 billion people. Since 80% of the water obtained is used for grain production and an increased demand for water to irrigate farmlands, drawing more and more of that water has dried out rivers and aquifers. The rising water shortages could sharply raise the country's demand for grain imports to accommodate for the decrease in grain production (Brown, et al., 1998). At the same time, the price for grain will rise steadily, and eventually increasing food demand within China.

Groundwater Contamination/ Pesticides

However, within Xian City, introduction of polluted wastewater into the small streams, has seepage into the groundwater system. The untreated wastewater is effluent products of industrial waste containing many pesticides. Ground water is used for irrigation, industry, drinking, and rural home and stock watering (Benarde, 1989). The beneficial aspect of ground water is that it requires no treatment to safeguard its quality. Since ground water is pulled beneath the surface due to gravity, safe drinkable water exists virtually anywhere within the ground. Since Xian City has a population of 2.8 million people, groundwater resources are vital for water consumption. However, with the industrial wastewater pollution containing pesticides contaminating the groundwater, the mass consumption of unhealthy water can be severe to the population’s health. The pesticide-contaminated groundwater can affect the human nervous system in various ways. Groundwater containing pesticides has been indicated was carcinogens and endocrine disrupters. Carcinogens are substances that attack normal cells causing them to be cancerous. While endocrine disrupters have been researched to indicate blocking of the normal passage of hormones into their receptors and mimicking the hormone itself, and enter the receptors in lieu of the hormone (Statement, 1995). However, many of the farmlands requires the uses of some type of pesticide to maintain their cropland, effluent wastes containing pesticides pouring into the streams, lakes, and rivers eventually seeps into the groundwater (Benarde, 1989). However, water is neither produced nor destroyed and the amount of vital usable water is quite limited. As you may know, there is a water shortage-taking place right now in the urban, industrial, and agricultural sectors within China. To help alleviate the water shortage within China, wastewater treatment plants will help increase the supply of usable water, improve the environment, and reduce water pollution.


Not only is the health of the people at concern, the concern for the environment is a major issue. By observing the vast amount of environmental factors that are affected by wastewater, we as a society must be able to grasp the concept of what types of risks we are putting on the natural capital. Goodland and Daly (1996) states that, "the natural capital is comprised of intact ecosystems and ecosystem services (structurally and functionally)". However, the effect of wastewater pollution in China opposes that statement. With the on going problem of wastewater pollution in China, this will continue to affect the ecosystem negatively. With the high rate of wetland destruction, depletion of plant biomass, effects on aquatic wildlife habitat, and the decrease in fresh water access, the ecosystem services provided by these components will continue to degrade. Since the natural resources of the ecosystem of the earth can not provide services any longer, the natural capital is completely depleted. The main objective is to maintain the natural capital so that we can ensure that the adequate resources are available for nature (Goodland and Daly, 1996).

I will discuss the environmental effects of wastewater pollution. Environmental affects include: effects on aquatic wildlife, a decrease in plant biomass, and the effects on wetlands.

Effects on Aquatic Wildlife

The environment is severely damaged in places due to water pollution. Water pollution has affected the ocean’s ecosystem, rivers, estuaries, lakes, and groundwater (Benarde, 1989). However, not only has the water pollution affected the environment, but also the species inhabiting the environment. Aquatic wildlife is one of the victims due to water pollution. One type of pollutant that affects the water is the physical effect, such as increased temperature (Benarde, 1989). As the water is released from industrial plants, about 15 to 25 mg/l, within the Xian City, heated water is released into the cool water systems (Kruger, 1997). When the heated water is discharged into the streams, the temperature of the streams increases. As a result, this may disrupt the ecological relationship between the water system and aquatic life. Even a rise in temperature of only a few degrees may be lethal to a variety of fishes and aquatic life. The death of certain species can remove the food supply of the species that prey on them and without food, they in turn will die or be forced to move downstream or to extinction. Also, most of the aquatic animals have a limited threshold on temperature changes. The abrupt temperature change may cause thermal shock to the species. Once again, since the species can not adapt to the sudden temperature change, this may cause the species to either go into extinction or migration to a more suitable environment. In addition to the adaptation problem with the temperature change, the warmed water may cause a decrease in the level of oxygen within the water. With the increased temperature and a decreased oxygen level, all chemical and biological activities are increased in terms of reaction rates. The further depletion of oxygen can affect the respiration and metabolism of aquatic plants and animals. If this continues, the stream capacity for self-purification is altered and further destruction of the ecosystem may occur.

Another type of pollutant that may affect the aquatic wildlife is the chemical pollutants that are discharged into the water systems by the industrial plants in Tianjin City. There are some 5,000 separate industrial units in Tianjin City. The primary industries in Tianjin are chemical, metallurgical, textiles and electronics. Most of the chemical pollutants that industrial plants discharge are heavy metals, particularly cadmium, zinc, and some organic-metallic compounds, have caused a serious threat to public health and the environment. There is no wastewater treatment facilities on site and all the effluent discharged is of an unacceptable quality to the environment. The effluent contains chlorinated hydrocarbons and other toxic organic compounds and can cause a chronic environmental health hazard (Xu, n/d). Most of the effluent is directly discharged into the water systems such as rivers, lakes, and oceans as point source pollution. If these pollutants are not at excess, the streams can self-purify. However, if the chemical pollutants are discharged at excess amounts, this will disrupt the ecosystem by the death of fishes and offensive odors can occur. The death of fishes occurs due to the chemical pollutants containing a high concentration of phosphates, nitrates, and potassium. Finally, other chemical pollutants such as metals can be toxic to the fishes inhabiting the streams. By killing off the fishes with the metal pollutants, this will disrupt the stabilization process by killing the necessary microflora for a healthy water system (Benarde, 1989). It is vital that an acceptable solution is found to treat this wastewater before the ground water and surrounding environment is severely polluted as well.

Effects on Plant Biomass

Not only is the aquatic wildlife altered due to water pollution, but the plant biomass is also altered. About 10,000 species of vascular plants are endemic to China, of which some 3,000 are in danger of extinction. With the continuous destruction of their native habitats, it is certain that many Chinese species have already become extinct. Since China is the native homeland for approximately 12% of the world's flora, the preservation of its species is greatly important (China Steps up Wetland Protection, n/d). However, the with the addition of chemical pollutants such as nitrates and phosphates in excess amounts, this can lead to algae blooms and eutrophication in the Chao Lakes and Xian City’s water systems altering China’s aquatic plant habitat. An example of aquatic alteration is eutrophication. Eutrophication occurs when the water system becomes enriched with nutrients such as fecal coliform bacteria and high concentration of chemical pollutants. The excessive amounts of nutrients can cause aquatic plants to bloom at a faster rate. The blue-green algae is one type of aquatic plant. After time, as the aquatic plant starts to die off and decay, this will lead to further depletion of oxygen concentration in the streams. Also, the supply of nitrogen is the factor determining algal growth, which in turn determines the growth conditions for the next link in the chain (zooplankton), and results in the growth of higher organisms. With the growth of higher organisms, the existing organisms such as plant biomass will be in competition for a suitable environment, which may eventually lead to species extinction.

Effects of Water Pollution on Wetlands

Wetlands provide a habitat for many living organisms and plant species throughout China. Wetlands are known for their vital feeding and nesting grounds for waders, feeding areas for fish-eating birds, and wintering grounds for migratory birds. One well-known wetland within China is the Poyang Lake. This wetland has been so far listed as a national nature reserve (Smart, 1996). Within this particular wetland in China inhabits a number of worlds endangered species. These endangered species includes the Siberian Crane, Oriental White Stork, the Swan Goose and White-naped Crane. Since wetlands are nurseries for many terrestrial animals and fish species by destroying the ecosystem with wastewater pollution, most of these endangered species can be driven into extinction. In a healthy wetland or estuary, there are microscopic plants (algae) that are often essential part of the food chain. When nutrients, particularly phosphorus from chemical pollutants, are added to the system, more algae grow. Most of the phosphorus that is being added to the water systems is discharged from nearby industrial plants. With the increase in phosphorus, it throws the ecosystem out of balance. When the algae die and decompose they can reduce the oxygen level in the water, which can kill fish and other aquatic organisms within the wetlands. The algae also reduces the amount of light that is able to penetrate the water, which can affect the growth of other aquatic plants. With the continuation of wastewater pollution in China, the precious wetland habitat is destroyed affecting many animals inhabiting the ecosystem.

Waste Water Treatment Plants

Since wastewater affects the environment in many ways, there must be a solution to treating wastewater that is being discharged from the industrial plants. Currently, there are 400 medium and small sized cities in China, discharging 10 billion tons of wastewater every year (N/A, 1998). Up until now, wastewater pollution in China is a serious concern. Therefore, it is important to treat and recycle wastewater and encourage environmentally sustainable economic development for the future of China.

Luohe City is a typical industrial city. Industrial and municipal wastewater is discharged into the urban areas at about 86,000 tons per day. Organic pollution (COD) is about 11,795 tons per day. The main pollution sources are paper mills, meat plants, chemical fertilizer plants, leather and tanning plants and fibre plants. The alternative wastewater treatment plant project proposed will be an important model for the whole nation. One type of wastewater treatment project is the reed-bed system. This system is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly method of treating sewage through small treatment works. The reed beds are used to remove the pollutants. Also, the reed-bed system has the ability to remove pollutants from plant biomass with the natural energy from sunlight. Since the reeds can be harvested each year along with providing a decent wildlife habitat, this can improve the quality of the ecosystem. The capital and operating costs of the system are comparatively low and inexpensive compared to other wastewater treatment systems. All waste leaving the building will be directed to an outdoor engineered reed beds forming wetland areas that host an area for the growth of bacteria congregating around the rooting systems. These break down the organic pollution to improve the water quality to an acceptable level. In most cases, by treating the wastewater effluent through the reed bed system, the effluent quality is lower than regulatory discharge standards. Such areas can also create valuable conservation reserves and increase local biodiversity. (Li et.al, 1995).

Other than the reed system, there are other ways of treating wastewater. One alternative is within Xian City by constructing a municipal wastewater treatment centers. These Sewage treatment centers can be located in various enterprises, including: township enterprises, hotels, villas, office buildings, hospitals, gymnasiums and remote residential areas (China-Wastewater Treatment Technology, 1996). Within these locations, there will be pumps and filtration systems to help treat the effluent before they are discharged into the water systems. Within the city of Bei Shi Qiao, a similar wastewater treatment plant is under construction (Krüger, 1997). This treatment plant will contain the following components listed in Table 2.

Table 2- Project components for the Bei Shi Qiao waste water treatment plant.

The plant consists of the following treatment units: Within the project proposed, there are immediate objectives on treating the waste water.

These immediate objectives are listed in Table 3.

Table 3- Immediate objectives to treating waste water.

 However, within Tijian City, wastewater treatment has lagged far behind for the past 20 years. The Government of the People’s Republic of China has recognized proposals on wastewater treatment procedures. In technical aspects, the Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) of Tianjin in will assist in identifying the most cost effective solutions for reducing and treating industrial wastewater. Additionally, industries are subjected to tight controls for discharge of wastewater to the City sewer system, limited sewer collection system, and two municipal wastewater treatment plants. The entire area will cover about 240 km2, 1,788 kms of interceptors and main sewers within the city boundary, 131 pumping stations, 171 kms of river embankments, and 2 sewage treatment plants. The Drainage Management Department (DMD), also known as Tianjin Sewerage Management will be responsible for the operation and maintenance TMG facilities (Wu, n/d).

Most of the wastewater treatment plants are estimated to take on the average of two to four years for completion. However, In order for the wastewater treatment plants to be constructed, there must be sufficient funding provided.

Economic Concerns for the Projects

In order to under go any large water treatment project within a country, there must be funding for the project. For the municipal wastewater treatment plants, the Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM) project coordinator made an estimated cost of about $1.35 billion US dollars. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) (Dresser, n/d) appointed CDM to conduct a project for a municipal wastewater treatment facilities.. However, for the industrial wastewater treatment plants estimated to be US$ 5.7 million dollars. To help fund this project, the World Bank will provide a loan of US$400 million. This loan is based on the Bank's standard interest rate and with a maturity of 20 years, including a 5-year grace period (Versak, 1997). Looking over the cost and funding for the overall project, we should estimate whether or not these estimations will be of a benefit for China in the long run. Currently the pollution caused by wastewater has impacted the economy in many ways. An estimation of economic losses resulting from the impact of water pollution on human health, industry, crop yields, livestock, and fisheries is large. With a negative impact on these variables, the agricultural status for the country will decline as well. Since agriculture is altered, the economy will suffer. With a decrease in fisheries, livestock, and crop yields, this will also effect society in terms of jobs and profit. By proposing the projects for wastewater treatment facilities, we can prevent the degradation of the economy by saving the agricultural industry.


Within the problems and opportunities, we will observe the problems inflicted by the lack of wastewater treatment facilities throughout China and the possible opportunities that can be made to help alleviate the wastewater pollution problem. In order to propose a viable solution to the wastewater pollution within China, we must observe the components that contributes to the problems caused by the lack of wastewater treatment facilities. These problems include (1) the environment, (2) impacts on society, (3) economic concerns in building the project and (4) the agricultural economic effects on the lack of wastewater treatment facilities within China. In addition to these problems due to the lack of wastewater treatment facilities, there must be a proposal for treating the wastewater efficiently.



In order to propose an efficient way of treating wastewater through treatment plants, we must understand the negative environmental impacts made by the untreated wastewater entering the ecosystems nearby. We need to know exactly how the untreated wastewater would affect the surrounding ecosystems.

With the continuation of untreated wastewater being discharged into the water systems, the ecosystem will continue to degrade at a fast rate. As Goodland and Daly (1996) stated, "the natural capital is comprised of intact ecosystems and ecosystem services (structurally and functionally)". However, with the continuation of the untreated wastewater being discharged, the statement made by Goodland and Daly becomes obsolete and not applicable. With the on going problem of wastewater pollution in China, pollution will continue to affect the ecosystem negatively. With the high rate of wetland habitat destruction, all types of aquatic and terrestrial species would be affected. Since most wetlands are used for breeding, resting, and food resource grounds for many species, by destroying the wetlands, a possibility of these species becoming extinct or endangered is taken into consideration. Another aspect of the environment is the ground water which is a source of fresh water access and runoffs into the nearby water systems and rivers. Nearby industrial plants that discharges untreated chemically contaminate effluents are continuously destroying the groundwater and water systems. With the lack of wastewater treatment procedures within these industrial plants, there will be a continuation of discharging pollution into the environment. Another factor that affects the environment is the depletion of plant biomass due to eutrophication. As mentioned earlier, eutrophication is mainly caused by the overload of nutrients entering the water system. The nutrient entering the water system is the effluents of untreated wastewater from the industrial plants. Without pre-treating the effluents, the continuation of nutrient rich water will we be discharged into the water systems as well. By negatively altering the ecosystem in various ways, the natural services that the ecosystem provides can not harvest the natural renewable substances to keep within the regeneration rate. With time, these once sustained ecosystems and environmental conditions are altered beyond their repairable state.

Social Aspects

Not only would the environment be of concern, but the society inhabiting the surrounding environment is also affected. One major concern regarding society is to protect the health of the community. However, for the past 20 years there has been a severe shortage of water used for irrigation of farmlands and the farmers have been using untreated wastewater (municipal combined with industrial) for agricultural purposes (Ching Wu,X et al., 1995) . Municipal and industrial waters contain chemicals, organic, thermal wastes, and sewage consisting of human wastes. Most of these municipal pollutants contribute to transmissions of water borne diseases. Water borne illnesses has been a major problem due to polluted waters. Within China alone, there has been epidemics of water borne diseases are cholera, typhoid, and dysentery (Cholera Epidemics in Shanghai & Hongkong, n/d). These epidemics have affected the lives of many Chinese by consuming or being exposed to the polluted wastewater. These epidemics lead to either severe hospitalization or death.

Another factor that concerns the health factors of the community is the drinking water obtained from the groundwater systems. By introducing wastewater into the small streams, these existing pollutants can seepage into the groundwater system. Not only is ground water is used for irrigation, industry, and rural home and stock watering, it is mainly used as a drinking source for the community (Benarde, 1989). With a population size of 2.8 million people in a near by city such as Xian City, the consumption of contaminated ground water for drinking purposes can be severely damaging to the population’s health. If groundwater is contaminated with pesticides, this can affect the human health in terms of cancer or as endocrine disrupters. Ground water becomes polluted when contributions of polluted waters from agriculture, farming and industrial wastes are entered into the water systems (Benarde, 1989). For health reasons, wastewater flowing into the water systems is not healthy for the community. By proposing a wastewater treatment plant where possible polluted waters are discharged, this can help reduce the risks of contaminating viable water resources within society.

Polluted wastewater not only affects humans, but it also affects the farmlands that the polluted wastewater is used on. Since most of the wastewater is used for irrigation of farmlands, the pollutants can affect and contaminate the vial crops such as grain production. Most of the water systems run through more than 25% of the agricultural farmlands and supports about a third of the population in the country. Cropland provides one of the major food supplies for China. With a decrease in the food supply from crops, starvation and a decrease in agriculture can impact the society.

Economic Issues

In order to fund a wastewater treatment facility project, you must take into consideration several factors. First, to build wastewater treatment facilities it would cost an estimated amount of $1.35 billion US dollars for a municipal wastewater treatment plant. However, for an industrial wastewater treatment plant, there is an estimation cost of US$ 5.7 million dollars (Versak, 1997). For these estimated costs, who would be willing to fund such a project? To help fund this project, the World Bank will provide a loan of US$400 million. This loan is based on the Bank’s standard interest rate with a maturity of 20 years, including a 5-year grace period (Versak, 1997).

Another economic concern is the duration of building several wastewater treatment facilities. An estimated duration is 2-4 years for completion. With the funding provided by the World Bank, which includes a 5-year grace period, the question is will this be sufficient amount of time to restore society back into an economically stable society after the project is completed? After the 2-4 year project duration, will the 5-year grace period be enough to accumulate enough funds, which should be well above the economic median to start paying off the funds loaned for the projects? In addition, there are other economic losses with the lack of wastewater treatment plants. Since agriculture is altered by the wastewater pollution, the economy will suffer in this sense. With a decrease in fisheries, livestock, and crop yields, this will also effect society in terms of jobs and profit. By proposing the projects for wastewater treatment facilities, we can prevent the degradation of the economy by saving the agricultural industry.


Proposed Wastewater Treatment Plants

Over viewing the vast amount of potential negative impacts made by the lack of wastewater treatment plants, strategies can be planned out to build efficient wastewater treatment plants. By constructing and building effective wastewater treatment facilities, we can help reduce the amount of polluted effluent that is being discharged into near by water ecosystems. With the decrease in polluted wastewater, the environment can be preserved and sustained. Also, by treating the wastewater being discharged into the lands used for agriculture, this can help reduce the amount of vital cropland being destroyed. With an increase in low polluted cropland, agricultural rates being harvested can increase which in turn can increase the productivity of the economy of the society.

Not only would wastewater treatment plants help the economy or the environment, the reduction of wastewater pollution contaminating the local groundwater would decrease as well. The negative health factors affecting the population would be greatly reduced.

Alternative Wastewater Treatment Strategies

Other means of wastewater treatment can be proposed. Both influent and effluent wastewater can be treated through several different types of treatment equipment. The equipment are easy to maintain and operate with minimizing operating expenses. The first type of wastewater treatment equipment is the metal recovery ion exchange system (Picture 1). This system was designed to remove metals within the wastewater. Recycling of the metal salt usually follows this treatment.

Picture 1. Metal recovery ion exchange system

The second type of wastewater treatment equipment that can be used is the point source recycling – ion exchange and plate out unit (Picture 2). This treatment unit help reduced the flow rates resulting in increases metal content of the effluent. This is the easiest way to treat metal containing wastewater because it removes most of the metal at the source of discharge.

Picture 2. Point source recycling – ion exchange and plate out unit

Finally, a reverse osmosis system can help treat the wastewater before discharging the water into the environment. A reverse osmosis system (Picture 3) uses a semipermeable membrane to filter the wastewater extensively by removing both inorganic and organic wastes. Using this type of treatment system, up 90% of the water can be purified (Remco Engineering, n/d).

 Picture 3. Reverse osmosis system

With the wastewater treatment plants proposed in China, the aspects of the environment, population, agriculture, and the economy can all improve dramatically. Although the proposed projects will take some time for completion, the long-term effects of improving the quality of water resources available in China are more beneficial in every aspect.


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