Pollution has turned branches of at least three tributaries of the Han river -- a branch of the Yangtz -- red:
The Xinglong, Tianguan and Dongjing rivers were all affected by the pollution, according to the state news agency Xinhua.The pollution has also contaminated water supplies for about 200,000 people in central China.
A chemical spill is thought be the cause, but the source has not yet been identified and an investigation has been launched.
Gao Qijin, a water company official in Xinguo, Jianli County, told Xinhua that the water in the Dongjing river had become red with large amounts of bubbles.
Meanwhile, Beijing is diverting water north for the Olympics, which means that in China's arid north, provinces already experiencing water shortages could be pushed deeper into crisis threatening the livelihoods of millions of people.