The scene should have been picturesque: A stream running through a suburban village near Beijing, China, located not far from two national parks and reservoirs. Except it was anything but idyllic.
A growing population meant many private sewage pipelines discharged waste into the stream. For the 25 million people touched by the local watershed, that meant the increased possibility of waterborne diseases. The sewage disposal also meant that surface water became blocked and soil erosion was prevalent, endangering residents’ homes if a flood came.