Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Water-starved Beijing residents dig wells outside their homes

By Dayu Zhang and Zoe Li, CNN
updated 1:54 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
"Who would dig up wells if there's enough water? There's just no water." Beijing residents take matters into their own hands and find groundwater near their homes. "Who would dig up wells if there's enough water? There's just no water." Beijing residents take matters into their own hands and find groundwater near their homes.
HIDE CAPTION
No water? Dig wells
No water? Dig wells
No water? Dig wells
No water? Dig wells
No water? Dig wells
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Residents in Beijing sick of water shortages, start digging wells
  • Water authorities: Fixing the shortages is complicated
  • Freshwater supply increasingly a problem in China

Beijing (CNN) -- At first glance, it seems like a lot of roadside construction is taking place in this residential neighborhood west of Beijing's Tsinghua University.

But a closer look reveals out-of-place pipes, mysterious pools of water and long hoses that run along the walls of nearby homes.

The "construction workers" aren't paid laborers either -- they're local residents who have simply walked out of their homes and started hacking into the road.

Why?

Pollution an economic concern in China

For water. They lift tiles off the pavements and dig until they hit ground water.

"Who would dig up wells if there's enough water? There's just no water," said one resident who would only give his surname, Yin. His family had been suffering from water shortages on and off for months until they decided to take matters into their own hands.

Growing demand

The Shuimo Community in Haidian district has grown rapidly and authorities have been unable to cope with the growing demand for water.

"We started receiving complaints from residents about water shortages since the end of July," said Liu Zhongmin, head of the Water Resources Office in the Department of Water Affairs of Haidian District. "We're aware of local residents digging wells to get water. These are illegal constructions and should be demolished."

But any plans to fix the water supply problem have been delayed. "We don't plan to do anything at this point as it'll spark tensions between us and residents," said Liu.

He explained that any work on the pipelines in the neighborhood would not be straightforward.

The community has grown from 1,000 residents to more than 8,000 in recent years, and new residents have occupied roads where pipelines are buried under their houses, according to Liu.

For the near future, residents see only one way out of the situation.

"Everybody knows we're not allowed to dig wells here but what else can we do? Who can solve the problem?" asks Yin. He adds that a well costs as much as RMB 40,000 (about $6,500) to complete.

Freshwater supplies in China have been increasingly strained in recent years. A growing population, industrial development and widespread pollution pushes the lack of freshwater to crisis levels, according to China Water Risk.

CNN's Linda Yin contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:09 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, set off a media kerfuffle this month when he spoke about his next reincarnation.
updated 10:18 AM EDT, Sun September 28, 2014
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
updated 10:57 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
China has no wine-making tradition but the country now uncorks more bottles of red than any other.
updated 5:29 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
updated 1:38 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
updated 1:45 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
updated 8:18 AM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
updated 10:00 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
updated 8:57 PM EDT, Thu September 4, 2014
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
updated 3:14 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
updated 11:12 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
updated 1:13 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
updated 5:08 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
updated 12:52 AM EDT, Mon August 11, 2014
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
updated 3:42 PM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
updated 12:10 AM EDT, Thu July 31, 2014
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
updated 3:12 AM EDT, Wed July 30, 2014
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
updated 10:30 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
updated 5:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Mon July 7, 2014
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT