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Research group of Associate Professor Chao Chen from the School of Environment Published an Article on the Journal “Accounts of Chemical Research”

SOE, Tsinghua, March 18th, 2019  Research group of Associate Professor Chao Chen recently published online an article entitled “A Tale of Two Water Supplies in China: Finding Practical Solutions to Urban and Rural Water Supply Problems” on the “Accounts of Chemical Research” under the flag of American Chemistry Society. This paper concludes the main challenges for the urban and rural water supply in China and the practical solutions by Chinese water professionals to address these challenges. The Ph.D. candidate, Mr Er Bei from School of Environment (SOE), Tsinghua University and Professor Xiaomei Wu from the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research are listed as the first authors. Associate Professor Chao Chen from SOE, Tsinghua is the corresponding author of this article.

Access to safe drinking water is among the 17 United Nations sustainable development goals. As the largest developing country, China has confronted large challenges to provide safe and sufficient drinking water to its population of 1.4 billion under the conditions of limited water sources and ubiquitous water contamination. This account outlines these challenges as well as the practical solutions implemented by Chinese water professionals. A general introduction of the water supply in China was provided at the beginning. Then, the main challenges of water source shortages and source water contamination were presented. The practical solutions developed by Chinese water professionals are the core part of this paper, which the authors have been devoted themselves in and contributed in some issues and cases.

The water supply in China is a binary system that reflects the gap between urban and rural communities. Both urban and rural water supplies have been subject to water source shortages and contamination. Water shortages are mainly solved by long-distance water transportation projects. Urban water utilities generally pay attention to organic matter, ammonia, algae, and chemical spills in source water, while also focusing on microorganisms and disinfection by-products in tap water. Microorganisms are a widespread concern for rural water supplies, while arsenic, fluoride, and ammonia are endemic concern in some rural communities. Investment in updating of treatment processes significantly benefits urban water supplies and advanced treatment of ozonation and biologically activated carbon processes are now commonly used to ensure that strict drinking water quality standards are met. However, this is not the case for rural water supplies, where expensive advanced treatment is not affordable. Thus, (besides the essential disinfection), improving rural water supplies requires approaches such as searching for better water quality sources, using automated ultrafiltration instruments, or connecting to urban water supply distribution systems. For rural areas with high concentrations of arsenic or fluoride in source water, specific adsorbents are a practical way to help farmers. Similar challenges will be encountered elsewhere in the world; therefore, the practical solutions applied in China will be useful to other countries in different stages of development.

The challenges to urban and rural water supply in China and the practical solutions

“Accounts of Chemical Research” is a renowned scientific journal under the flag of American Chemistry Society. Its latest impact factor is 20.955. This journal is going to publish a special issue with the theme of “Water for Two Worlds: Urban and Rural Communities. Dr Chao Chen was invited to publish an article on this special issue to introduce the research progress of Chinese peers.

This paper summarized the work of authors over the past decade which were supported by the Major Water Projects of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China, Tsinghua University, and the Water Research Foundation of U.S.A. Some of the research achievements including the emergency drinking water treatment technologies, the controlling measures on disinfection by-products, advanced treatment technology of drinking water, controlling measures on water stability in distribution system have been widely applied in China water industry.