More than 3.48 million people in rural areas of north China’s Hebei Province have been given access to safe drinking water this year, a local official said Saturday.

Authorities in the province have invested more than 1.7 billion yuan (270 million U.S. dollars) so far in 2011 in building drinking water infrastructure, said Liang Jianyi, deputy director of the Hebei Provincial Department of Water and Resources.

More than 32 million rural people in Hebei, especially in mountainous and coastal areas, had long suffered from unsafe water, with problems including high fluorine and alkaline contents, Liang said.

From 2005 to 2010, the provincial authorities put almost 6 billion yuan into providing safe drinking water for 13 million rural residents, he added.