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  • Writer's pictureJuntao Ren

Access to Clean Water in Rural China

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

Note: This article was written by Earthlinking. Earthlinking is a youth-led organization located in Southern California dedicated to raising awareness on the environmental issues that surround our planet. They strive to reduce the human footprint and preserve our earth for many centuries to come. For more information about their organization, please contact them through their Instagram @earthlinking2020, their Facebook/Twitter, Earthlinking, and their email, They want to make a difference in our society and hope you can join them in their endeavor.


50-75% of our bodies consist of water. Water is essential to all the various functions in our bodies since we cannot survive without it for up to three days. Access to water and sanitation are crucial parts of our human rights in our world, especially rural China. From countless articles, China has the largest population of people in the world: 1,439,297,980 as of June 29, 2020. With China’s population growing, the demand for clean, purified water and sanitation for Chinese civilians increases. About 60 million people in China still lack consistent access to clean water, with the majority dwelling in rural villages. They wash their clothes and brew tea with water that has been potentially contaminated by agricultural and industrial runoff. Additionally, malnutrition and clean water are closely linked. Ensuring clean water is a vital factor in preventing malnutrition. Drinking contaminated water leads to intestinal problems due to parasites, which then causes diarrhea and poor digestion. In other words, to eliminate malnutrition, access to clean water must also be reached.

Many countries must address contaminated water, and rural China is no different. With various options to choose from, passionate changemakers can utilize methods, organizations, and many more to make a difference in these rural villages located in China. Although there are several options for water purification technologies, we must take into consideration the geological and climate factors that impact rural China. The growing population in China results in the increasing demand for purified water for daily use. Utilizing proper resources, support, and passion, we can initiate multiple projects in China to provide civilians with easy access to clean water to empower the next generations.

Currently, there is the Cisterns Programme, used to collect rainwater runoff from roofs. Cisterns, which are tanks used to store water, are installed near the houses and collect rainwater and runoff from roofs to supply people with water to drink and use for domestic purposes. These cisterns last for 40 years and are around $900. This program, which started in Brazil, built one million cisterns for 4.5 million people. The purpose is to empower women, as the cisterns are registered under the female head of the household, which provides women with additional responsibility and property. Implementing this program in rural China can help civilians gain access to more sources of water, while also empowering women. People in rural China no longer need to use contaminated water to wash their clothes and can have cleaner water to drink to improve brain functions, which can specifically allow students in rural areas to perform better in school.

We must also note that 3.4 million people die annually from waterborne diseases. Therefore, filtering water remains a crucial necessity. LifeStraw, an organization, works to create straws that filter water to remove bacteria and various contaminants found in the water source. In the western provinces of Kenya, about 880,000 straws were delivered to communities, ensuring water is filtered and cleaned. The vast majority of China’s water is undrinkable due to the heavy pollution of dumping industrial chemicals, agricultural waste, and urban wastewater. If Lifestraw was delivered to rural villages in China, the people would have a more efficient way to filter water considering

Likewise, international non-governmental organizations such as WaterAid have been working extensively to improve sanitation, hygiene, and provide access to clean water in developing communities. One program implemented in Bangladesh teaches children the blue hand game, in which they teach about how germs are spread. First, the children's hands are painted blue, after which they are instructed to touch various surfaces such as desktops or walls. Any blue markings on surfaces indicate that the germs have transferred there, demonstrating just how quickly bacteria can spread. As a result, children can understand the importance of having clean water and sanitation to prevent contamination, emphasizing the importance of handwashing. WaterAid has provided 24.9 million people with clean water and reached 16.7 million people in promoting good hygiene habits. If WaterAid reached children in rural China, they can emphasize the importance of maintaining good hygiene habits, which can highlight the importance of clean water and lower the risks of malnutrition.

Another method to filter water is the Solar Disinfection (SODIS) unit. Created in the 1980s, SODIS inexpensively disinfects water through a type of bottle called a PET, which is a form of plastic that is affordable and can be easily manufactured and accessed. Users of the product would need to clean the PET bottle, place the water inside, and leave it out in the sun for 6 hours, thus eliminating the bacteria inside the contaminated water, resulting in purified water that is safe to drink. Most common viruses such as bacteria and other protozoa are therefore destroyed. SODIS is an easy-to-use and cost-effective tool, however, the time required to treat water as well as a limited volume of water that can be treated stand to be drawbacks. SODIS, nonetheless, is a very effective way to treat contaminated water for multiple persons. In 28 countries alone, over 2 million people actively use SODIS for daily drinking water treatment. From countless experiences, SODIS has been promoted and disseminated by many organizations such as women’s clubs, youth associations, and even institutional organizations such as hospitals and schools. This method serves as one of the last resorts for rural villages that cannot afford more expensive water treatment systems yet desperately require access to clean water.

By increasing access to clean water in rural China, we can eliminate malnutrition, improve sanitation, and overall boost the quality of life for the current and future generations.


Works Cited

  1. “Brazil's Cisterns Programme.”, 3 Apr. 2020,,shortages%20due%20to%20successive%20droughts.&text=Later%20the%20programme%20was%20expanded,food%2C%20and%20for%20municipal%20schools.

  2. Hsu, Sara. “China's Water Pollution Mire.” – The Diplomat, For The Diplomat, 28 May 2014,

  3. “LifeStraw Official Online Store.” LifeStraw Water Filters & Purifiers,

  4. Shen, Dajun. “Human Development Reports.” Access to Water and Sanitation in China | Human Development Reports, 2006,

  5. Shulman, Ken. “On the Ground in China to Provide Clean Water.” MIT Technology Review, MIT Technology Review, 23 Mar. 2020,

  6. Washington, Nicole. “Billions of People Got Clean Water in the Past 25 Years.” National Geographic, 2 Mar. 2016,

  7. “We Are the Leading Clean Water Non-Profit, Tackling the Water Crisis COVID-19: WaterAid June: WaterAid US.” WaterAid,

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