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Beijing experiences snowless winter amid lingering drought

BEIJING, Dec. 29 — As snow is wreaking havoc across much of the northern hemisphere, the Chinese capital is still anxiously waiting its first snowfall for this winter.

Meteorologists said Beijing will witness the latest arrival of snow in 22 years as the previous record of late-arriving snowfall being on Dec. 28, 1988.

Beijing with a population of 20 million has been suffering a lingering drought for more than a decade. But this year the situation is worse, said Guo Wenli, director of the climate center under the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Meteorology.

The city has been without rain or snow for nearly two months, and the precipitation during the flood season from Jun. 1 to Sept. 15 this year was 273 millimeters, the lowest since 1960, Guo said.

Without large rivers running through the region, Beijing's water supply depends largely on precipitation and underground water, Guo said.

Underground sources supply over two thirds of Beijing municipality's needs, and since 2004 the city has also begun drawing on "karst" groundwater supplies 1 km or deeper below surface.

Those deep underground sources, stored in porous rock, were originally set aside for use only in times of war or emergency.

Projects to divert water from the country's south will relieve the problem to some extent once the project is completed in 2014. But before that Beijing will continue taping its strained underground water, said Dai Yuhua, official of Beijing Water-affair Authority.

Dai said, the canal project will help alleviate Beijing's water shortage by providing the city with about one billion cubic meters of water every year.

"However, it is estimated that Beijing is suffering a shortage of 1.79 billion cubic meters of water annually," Dai said, "so the canal project will not completely solve the problem."

Beijing has adopted a series of policies to regulate and limit water consumption in agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

Official records show that agriculture and industrial water consumption dropped over the last 22 years, while water consumed by residents and service industries increased.

To ease the water shortage, Beijing needs to control the growth of its population and set up stricter supervision over water use in the service industry, said He Jianping, official of the Beijing water conservation management center.

"More importantly, we need to heighten the residents' awareness to save water," He said. (PNA/Xinhua)

LOR/ebp

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