BEIJING, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Fu Shuming has made a habit of smiling conservatively due to the awkwardness he feels about his stained teeth, which he has had for decades due to a lack of access to clean water in his village in north China.
"People in our village are often unwilling to smile from ear to ear because our teeth are stained yellow," said Fu, 83, from Kushuiying Village in Hebei Province.
Kushuiying translates to "town of bitter water," named due to the high-fluoride groundwater in the area. The water in the village used to contain three times more fluoride than the standard for drinking water, which caused permanent damage to people's teeth and health.
Like Fu, about 9.75 million residents in parts of rural China who used to wrestle with high-fluoride groundwater now have easy access to clean water.
With tap water now accessible to 84 percent of rural households, the various hardships rural Chinese residents have been through to fight water shortages or substandard water quality over past decades are now history.
BITTER NO LONGER
When people from Fu's village travel to fairs out of town, others can often tell from their teeth that they are from Kushuiying, Fu said.
Villagers had to pump water from wells and store it in tanks. And what's worse, the water in the wells was bitter in Fu's younger years.
In October 2018, more than 2.76 million villagers were still drinking water with excessive levels of fluoride in Hebei Province.
But with water from the South-to-North Water Diversion Project accessible in the village and new water sources ushered in, people in Fu's village have finally bid farewell to bitter water.
"With drinkable tap water running, we don't need the tanks anymore," said Fu Xiwang, Fu Shuming's son. "It's a town of sweet water now."
EASY ACCESS TO WATER
Daling Village, located in the Dongxiang Autonomous County in northwest China's Gansu Province, had been suffering from drought for years.
"When I was little, I used to take a donkey and two buckets to a nearby village to carry water home. I had to set off at 4 a.m. in order to wait in line to get it," villager Ma Maide said, recalling the hard times.
But the county's rural drinking water problem has changed a great deal in recent years.
After years of endeavors, a total of eight centralized water supply plants, 22 pump stations and a slew of supporting facilities were built in the county, delivering tap water to households in mountainous areas, said Ma Qiang, director of the county's water supply service center.
Backed by newly supportive conditions, Ma has been able to start a breeding business.
"I bought 20 sheep last year, and they gave birth to 30 lambs. I can make about 50,000 yuan (about 7,862 U.S. dollars) from them a year," Ma said.
Last year, the country secured the supply of water for 42.63 million rural residents, data from the Ministry of Water Resources shows.
This year, the ministry will further renovate and standardize the water facilities in rural areas, improve the quality of water, and strengthen related management and services. ■