Over the past fortnight, a number of districts in Hanoi, namely Thanh Xuan, Nam Tu Liem, Thanh Oai, and Hoai Duc, have encountered severe water shortages. This dire situation has compelled residents to endure long queues, extending until the early hours of the morning, just to obtain water from trucks and tanks.
Numerous individuals have faced difficulties in accessing shower facilities, resulting in some seeking refuge at their relatives' residences or resorting to digging wells on their own property for water supply.
Water demand in the city of 8.4 million people has decreased since summer came to an end two months ago.
Thanks to rainfall and floods occurring upstream, the water levels in rivers such as the Red, Da, and Duong have witnessed a rise. These rivers heavily rely on these sources of surface water for their sustenance.
However, it is important to acknowledge that the existing water scarcity issue persists and cannot be swiftly resolved.
Minimized usage of groundwater Reduced exploitation of groundwater resources
Approximately half of the daily water supply, which amounts to 1.5 million cubic meters, is sourced from groundwater. Unfortunately, due to prolonged exploitation over the years, the levels of groundwater have significantly depleted, leading to severe subsidence issues. Additionally, contamination with arsenic has also become a concerning problem.
In order to safeguard groundwater sources and establish a sustainable water supply, the government has revised its long-term plans until 2030. The new approach prioritizes surface water over groundwater and aims to gradually reduce dependence on underground water resources.
The current groundwater extraction of 770,000 m3 is set to decrease steadily and reach a target of 413,000 m3 by the year 2050.
Due to certain circumstances, several waterworks have made the decision to cease operations in their wells. One such example is the Ha Dinh pumping station, which has closed down eight out of its 17 wells. In light of this, the station will only be capable of supplying a reduced amount of 10,000 m3 per day until 2030, which accounts for merely one-third of its usual capacity.
All of its wells will be shut down by 2050.
The Phap Van plant, which has the capability to produce 30,000 m3 of water per day, has successfully minimized its reliance on groundwater extraction by limiting it to a mere 5,000 m3. The plant aims to completely cease drawing water from this source by the year 2030.
Revised: Water Projects Experiencing Delays
Hanoi has been compelled to rely on surface water sources as a result of reducing groundwater exploitation. However, the city is currently facing delays in implementing various water projects, which has added to the challenge.
The completion of the Red River Water Pumping Station in Dan Phuong District, which was expected to have a daily capacity of 300,000 m3, has experienced a significant delay spanning nearly three years.
Originally slated for launch in Q1 2021, the commencement of operations for this project has been rescheduled by the city to Q4 2024.
According to Nguyen Phuc Hoan, the deputy head of the Dan Phuong urban management department, the project is currently in its last stage. The installation of water extraction equipment from the Red River is scheduled to take place this month, followed by water treatment operations in December.
The areas designated for pipe installation have yet to be properly cleared.
The initial phase of its Da River counterpart was finished in 2009, enabling a daily capacity of 300,000 m3. However, as of now, the second phase to augment its capacity by 2020 remains unfinished.
The expansion project aimed at enhancing the Bac Thang Long-Van Tri water factory's daily capacity from 150,000 to 200,000 m3 was initially projected to reach completion by 2018. However, regrettably, the commencement of this undertaking has not yet taken place.
Construction has not yet commenced on the Xuan Mai water factory in Hoa Binh, which was initially projected to be finished in 2020. With a daily capacity of 200,000 m3, its completion remains pending.
Insufficient Water Infrastructure in Suburban Areas
Over the past decade, following the merger of Ha Tay Province with Hanoi, remarkable urbanization has taken place in the western and southwestern districts of the capital. Along the Le Van Luong-To Huu axis, the National Highway 32 section in Hoai Duc District, and Thang Long Avenue, numerous urban areas have emerged, fueling the rapid growth and development of these regions.
Due to rapid population growth, these areas have experienced a significant increase in residents. Unfortunately, the development of water sources and supply networks has not kept up with this pace of expansion.
In a recent survey conducted by the Hanoi People's Council in late September, it was found that the water supply networks in inner districts of Hanoi are successfully meeting the demand for 100-150 liters per person per day. However, the situation takes a different turn in suburban areas, where a number of ongoing water projects are yet to be completed, leading to inadequate water supply.
Due to this situation, a total of 139 communes currently lack their own waterworks infrastructure.
The Western Hanoi Water Company had undertaken a crucial water supply project for 14 communes and towns in Hoai Duc District. Originally slated for completion in 2018, unfortunately, the project remains unfinished.
Since June, multiple communes have been facing water shortages.
The waterworks projects in the communes of Soc Son, Dong Anh, Gia Lam, Chuong My, Xuan Mai, and Dan Phuong have experienced delays or are yet to be initiated.
Water prices that are not appealing
Starting from July 1st this year, there has been a noticeable rise in water tariffs for residential purposes. The initial rate of VND5,793 for the first 10 m3 has now been adjusted to VND7,500. Moreover, there are plans to gradually escalate the tariff to VND8,500 by the year 2024.
The office chief of the Hanoi People's Committee, Truong Viet Dung, stated in June that water prices have remained unchanged for the past decade, despite rising costs.
He added that as a result of the policy to decrease groundwater exploitation, the city is now increasingly dependent on surface water factories. However, it should be noted that these factories are more expensive to operate.
Hanoi has successfully drawn the attention of 23 investors who are keen on supporting 40 water supply projects. These initiatives aim to enhance the city's water capacity to more than 2.3 million cubic meters per day.
With the implementation of twenty-nine additional projects, the rural areas are expected to fulfill 96% of their water demand, exceeding the current rate of 80%.
However, a number of investors are finding it challenging to cope with the low water tariffs as expenses continue to surge.
In late 2022, the Western Hanoi Water Company, responsible for building water supply networks in 14 communes and a town located in Hoai Duc District, reached out to city authorities seeking assistance as they faced increasing financial losses.
The company stated that individuals residing in rural regions such as Hoai Duc District primarily consist of farmers with modest incomes. These individuals are accustomed to relying on rainwater and groundwater sources for their water needs, rather than consuming piped water.
According to the statement, the district's low population density and dispersed housing result in elevated expenses for pipelines and various equipment.
According to the statement, losses were incurred due to the combination of exorbitant expenses and inadequate pricing.
The pricing of water purchased by pumping stations varies across different locations. In comparison, water sourced from the Duong River tends to cost approximately VND3,000 more per cubic meter than water obtained from the Da River. Due to this price difference, the Viwaco company primarily relies on water supply from the Da River, as it distributes water to low-lying areas such as Thanh Xuan, Hoang Mai, Dong Da, and Ha Dong.
Thach That, Quoc Oai, and Chuong My Districts, situated on elevated terrain and not connected to Viwaco's water supply, unfortunately suffer from inadequate water resources despite their close proximity to the Da River.
Le Van Du, the deputy head of the infrastructure division at the city Department of Construction, acknowledged that the ongoing construction of waterworks is not sufficient to resolve the supply shortages in the near future.
Hanoi's western and southwestern areas are anticipated to face a water deficit of approximately 50,000 m3 per day during the summer of 2024.