Providing dry island communities – those with no natural source of fresh water – with drinking water supplies can be a major engineering challenge. The failure of submarine pipelines can be very expensive, and metal pipes are vulnerable to rapid corrosion in salt water. In Europe this has led to a number of high-profile submarine projects being constructed using polyethylene pipes, which are completely resistant to the damaging effects of seawater.
This technology is now being applied on the coast of southern China to link the dry Taiwan-administered islands of Quemoy to the city water supply of Xiamen on mainland China.
China is experiencing tremendous economic growth, but this industrial expansion is at the root of many social and environmental problems. Water is one of the critical issues because, while China ranks fourth in the world for renewable water resources, its large population and increasing industrial consumption are placing very heavy demands on this resource. Good water management systems are therefore key to future growth and prosperity, and the adoption of high-quality pipeline materials and the use of modern installation techniques are an important element of that.
The coastal city of Xiamen, which lies in the
southern part of Fujian province, was one of the
four original special economic zones in China.
This stimulated considerable growth, and today
it has a population of nearly three million. In recent
years Xiamen has received a number of environmental
awards and become established as a
major tourist centre.
A short distance off the coast, in the mouth of Xiamen Bay, is a group of small Taiwan-administered islands called Quemoy (also known as Jinmen Islands). Their population of just over 80,000 earns a living mainly from farming and because the islands have no natural source of water, other possibilities are limited.