The deteriorating water quality of many large domestic lakes and reservoirs is being caused by the excessive use of fertilizers, according to a report published by the environmental NGO Greenpeace on Thursday.
The report, based on a survey in August, was the first Greenpeace has conducted nationwide to look at the excessive use of fertilizers as a cause of water contamination.
In 2012, Greenpeace entrusted experts from Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology of Chinese Academy of Sciences to launch an investigation into the quality of surface water and groundwater in some 80 densely populated areas such as Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, Dongting Lake in Hunan Province, Tai Lake in Jiangsu Province and the Three Gorges Reservoir.
After analyzing existing documents and carrying out fieldwork, experts believe that nitrogenous fertilizer caused the deteriorating water quality. According to the report, the water quality in many large reservoirs such as Poyang Lake failed to meet the lowest standard water quality and was only fit for agriculture use.
The report said only half of the nation's drinking water meets national standards. There are five levels for water quality in China, and drinking water must meet or exceed the third level.
Pan Wenjing, a Greenpeace food and agriculture campaigner, told the Global Times some highly toxic fertilizers are commonly and excessively used in China.
"Few people know that this fertilizer will remain in the soil and pollute the drinking water," she said, noting that currently China does not have regulations on the use of nitrogenous fertilizers.
In August 2012, the majority of surface and ground water in the areas that were tested did not meet the lowest level, which means even touching the water may harm the skin.
"Infants and small children might become ill from drinking water with nitrate over ten milligrams per liter," she said.
"We hope environmental and agricultural authorities could pay more attention to the contamination of drinking water caused by excessive use of nitrogenous fertilizer as the current situation is already severe," said Pan.
She noted that the dual needs of food and drinking water are a must for all people and one cannot be sacrificed for the other. "A reasonable agricultural policy [that controls the amount of fertilizer in use] is now needed in China," she said.