By He Shan Shan (Sammy)

In the Tuopu general market, people living a few meters apart on the same side of the street can be charged different prices for their water depending on who manages their liquid resource.

“The water price is so high that I can’t accept it, and my business is also poor,” Zhuang Wenhao complained.

In Zhuang’s shop, the water price controlled by the water contractor is 3.65 yuan per ton. Lin Xuzhuang runs a shop just 30 meters away from Zhuang’s on the same side of street. His water, however, is managed by the water station, a subordinate governmental agency, and costs 3.2 yuan per ton. Zhuang hopes that the government can recover the contractor’s right in managing water.

According to the NanFang Daily, before 1999, the water in many places in Shantou was provided by the Shantou City Water Company, a state-owned enterprise, which installed the total water table, and then handed over the controls to the community residents’ committees or the private contractors. Both of them raised the price in order to recover their costs for raising the water pressure to reach each user’s house and maintaining the ageing pipes that leak out large amounts of water.

“The distance between my shop and house is only a street, but I have to go to two places to pay the water bills. It is too inconvenient,” said Tang Fusheng who has been running a small grocery store for ten years in the Tuopu general market. The water in the shop is governed by the governmental agency while the water in his house, on the other side of the street, is managed by the contractor.

In Tang’s opinion, the quarrel with the contractor is so cumbersome that most people complain in private but do nothing beyond that to change their situation.

In order to change the water management mess, in 1999, the water company started to a reform project so that the water is only provided by the ShanTou City Water Company, a state-owned company. Ten years later, the some of the residents’ water still isn’t controlled by the water company. But the reform project moved slowly due to the high cost.

The Shantou government has aimed to have all water controlled by the Shantou City water company by 2013 and to have a unified water price.

Chen Fenzhuang, a worker in Tuopu water station, said, “In two or three years, the contractor and the water station in Tuopu will be lost, the Shantou City water company will come to manage the water directly.”