Reclaimed water cleans up lake, rivers

source:           editor:Zhang Wenni

Editor's note: As protection of the planet's flora, fauna and resources becomes increasingly important, China Daily is publishing a series of stories to illustrate the country's commitment to safeguarding the natural world.


Lotus plants cover the surface of the Shichuan River in Fuping, Shaanxi province, last month. The introduction of reclaimed water has helped maintain the river's flow and improve its ecological functions. ZOU JINGYI/XINHUA

Xi'an Lake, located in the north of the Shaanxi provincial capital Xi'an, used to be an eyesore avoided by the locals, after years of sand exploitation and factory runoff left it stinking and polluted.

"When I was a child, adults would tell us to stay away from it," said Chen Xu, 37, referring to the body of water the size of roughly 200 soccer pitches.

Having grown up near the lake in Xilongwo village, Chen left to become a steelworker after finishing school.

On a return visit to his hometown in 2016, Chen was shocked to discover that the once-polluted Xi'an Lake had been given a much-needed face-lift — the water was cleaner, the air was fresh, there were shrubs and trees planted and people were even visiting it for leisure.

The progress has been made possible through a local government initiative launched in 2013 to treat the area with reclaimed water, according to Wang Yijun, an official with Xi'an's ecological management center for the Weihe River, where the lake water flows into.

On average, about 50,000 cubic meters of reclaimed water is diverted into the lake every day. After flowing through the 1.5-million-cubic-meter lake, where a gradual process of natural purification is taking place, the water runs into the Weihe.

Reclaimed water is wastewater that has been treated for industrial or environmental purposes, or irrigation.

The water passing through the lake is rated at Grade IV in China's five-tier quality system for surface water, with Grade I being the best.

Grade IV surface water is suitable for industrial purposes as well as water-related recreational activities that do not necessitate direct human contact.

After cleaning up the water in 2016, the government launched a project to plant trees and shrubs in the lake's surroundings, as well as build a 6.7-kilometer scenic walkway around it.

Impressed by the remarkable changes to Xi'an Lake, Chen was motivated to return to his hometown to work as a sanitation worker.

"I enjoy working in such a beautiful environment, and it's close to home, allowing me to take better care of my family," he said.

Yang Yi, who lives in a community five minutes drive from the lake, said the area has become a popular spot for leisure, and that she takes her two children there at least once a month.

"Many people come for camping. On weekends, the area is often packed with tents," said the 39-year-old. "There are so many visitors that it's not easy to find a place to park our car."

To complement the growing number of visitors, businesses are seizing upon new opportunities. One example is V Coffee, which opened by the lake in 2021.

"The scenery here is good, and there are many visitors," said Dan Zhengzhong, manager of the cafe. On average, we have more than 100 customers a day throughout the year, with business especially good in spring, he said.

Green vision

As China modernizes guided by Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization, the transformation of Xi'an Lake is an example of how governments can take measures to address water pollution while simultaneously meeting people's desire to be around a cleaner, more pleasant environment.

This progress is significant in regions grappling with severe water scarcity and illustrates the tangible outcomes of concerted efforts made toward improving environmental sustainability and public well-being.

Ecological civilization is a concept promoted by President Xi for balanced and sustainable development that features harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. One of its 10 tenets is that there should be no welfare more universally beneficial than a sound natural environment.