Water Technology

case study: china’s south north transfer project

Project began in 2003 and involves building 3 canals to run across the eastern, middle and western parts of China and link the country’s 4 main rivers.




Benefits Costs
§  Transfer 44.8 billion m3 per year

§  Central government to pay 60% of the cost

§  Water conservation, improved irrigation, pollution treatment and environmental protection

§  Will supply big cities like Beijing


§  Significant ecological and environmental impacts along the waterways

§  Resettlement of people will be needed

§  Declining water quality

§  Will cost $62 billion

§  Will take 50 years to complete

§  Untreated city wastewater is being mixed with agricultural run off

§  Pollution of river at alarming levels

§  Huia River is polluted

§  Yellow river water undrinkable


  • This is the removal of excess salt and minerals from water
  • Produces freshwater suitable for consumption or irrigation
  • Desalination was a technological success that failed to deliver in economic and environmental terms
  • Many countries that use it are well off, technologically developed and increasingly water stressed.
  • In the ME Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait use cheap energy to distil fresh water from sea water
  • In the USA, California and Florida use reverse osmosis membrane technology to filter from brackish water and rivers. Spain, China, Australia and Israel starting to use this technology.
  • Cost is difficult to calculate as subsidies always used.
  • Cheaper processing and larger plants make it cheaper, but process uses a lot of energy so rising oil costs increase the prices
  • Concentrated brine is a by-product – possible ecological effects.


  • In developing countries ore intermediate technology is more appropriate:
  • Water collection e.g. catching rainwater or building small
  • Wells built by NGOs e.g. Water
  • Using plastic or glass bottles filled with contaminated water exposed to the sun for 6 hours destroys micro-organisms.


With the majority of desalination plants extracting water directly through open water intakes in the ocean, there is a direct impact on marine life. Fish and other marine organisms are killed on the intake screens (impingement); organisms small enough to pass through, such as plankton, fish eggs, and larvae, are killed during processing of the salt water (entrainment). The impacts on the marine environment, even for a single desalination plant, may be subject to daily, seasonal, annual, and even decadal variation, and are likely to be species- and site-specific.



  • The UK
  • Water supply was privatised in 1989.
  • There are over 20 companies that supply water across England and wales.
  • It is regulated by Ofwat.
  • Veolia and Suez are two French companies that supply 2/3 of global private water which is 7% of the global water supply. This is expected to increase to 17% by 2025.
  • Agua del Tunari took over water supply in Cochabamba in 1999.
  • Prices were raised for infrastructural development and there was a 16% profit margin
  • Locals couldn’t afford the water which was 20% of their wages.
  • They rioted for four days.
  • 1 death and 170 injures.
  • The Bolivian government cancelled Agua del Tunari’s contract.
  • Riots against the privatisation of water supply has also happened in Peru, Panama and Brazil.