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About this book

This book explores water resources management issues in China and possible solutions. It analyzes a wide range of general and specific topics, providing case studies and a balanced review of the past and present situation as well as future developments. The book begins with a general introduction and an overview of hydrology, water resources, and development issues in China. It then presents a management framework, including a management system, management institutions, river basin management, water pricing, water rights, and groundwater management, and discusses its implementation, covering water resources allocation and regulation in the Yellow River, integrated water affair management reforms, and agricultural water management in northern China. The last section focuses on the current reforms and hot topics, with strong emphasis on stringent water resource strategies applied to the river and lake principle system, recycled water use and water resources asset management, as well as climate change impacts, and concludes with a summary of the many changes in the water sector in China and a look at the road ahead and the areas that still need to be reformed.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Physical Settings and Water Challenges

Abstract
This chapter provides a general description, analysis, and summary of geography, hydrology, and water resource development in China. The monsoon and China’s variety of landscapes result in significant regional differences in terms of the hydrological cycle, water resources, and related issues. The regional distribution of water resources is uneven and not compatible with the distribution of other resources, such as population and land. The seasonal and inter-year variations are great. Therefore, the natural endowment of water resources in China is insufficient, with per capita and per unit of cultivated land totals lower than world averages; water resources have become a key constraint in regional social and economic development. More importantly, northern China, with its landscape impacted by human activities and climate change, has had a significant decrease in water resources, intensifying conflicts over water supply and demand.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 2. Water Resources Management Framework

Abstract
This chapter analyzes the water resources management framework in China, focusing on the system design and relationships. The key water resources management systems and their policy direction and focal points are described and analyzed. The relationships of these systems in water resources management are classified in terms of water resources development and use processes, management responsibilities, temporal and spatial aspects, technical review procedures and administrative management activities, and management instruments and levels. These systems form a complicated water resources management framework in China. The framework developed covers most aspects of water resources management, from long term to short term, from river basin to user, and from access restriction to internal incentives. Compared to those in other countries, China’s framework is more complicated, resulting in high requirements in its technical aspect and implementation.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 3. Water Resources Management Institutions

Abstract
This chapter analyzes water resources management organizations in ancient history, development after 1949, and at present in China. The structures of water institutions in ancient China were very complicated. In the 70 years from 1949 to 2019, as the country developed from an agricultural economy to an industrialized one, the role of the water sector and its organizations experienced significant changes. The focus of the water sector shifted from water resources project construction to water resources management and to water resources saving and protection. The sector’s purposes were transformed from agriculture to industry, domestic sector, and ecology/environment. In almost 70 years, the MWR’s functions have undergone many changes. It developed from an agency for agricultural development in the 1950s to a combination of water infrastructure construction and hydropower development in the 1960s and 1970s. Its key responsibilities concerned water infrastructure construction and water resources management in the 1980s and 1990s, then water resources management in 2000s, but reverted to the management of water resources projects, water resources and waters after 2018.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 4. River Basin Management

Abstract
This chapter has focused on river basin management in China. The major river basins, their water resources, and key issues have been introduced. Legal arrangements, key river basin management systems, and river basin organization and development processes have been studied. The characteristics, experiences, and lessons of river basin management in China have been summarized. A national unified approach for river basin management has been adopted, regardless of the significant differences between these river basins. Authority for the management of inter-jurisdictional river basins is derived from the national government and water-related laws in China. In the beginning of the 1950s, China formed a water management institution focused on water project construction. However, this created challenges, such as neglecting or rejecting the water resource benefits from river basin management and multi-purpose utilization of local and departmental interests. The country established and strengthened the river basin management institutions in the seven major river basins. Now, a river basin management model with Chinese characteristics based on planning and coordination has been formed, making river basin management an important factor in promoting integrated development and management of China’s water resources. The RBO has become an important institution linking jurisdictional management and river basin management.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 5. Water Resources Allocation and Regulation

Abstract
This chapter analyzes the water resources allocation and regulation framework and implementation progress in China. Based on China’s administrative management system and river basin management arrangements, water resource allocation and regulation in China can be divided into three aspects: spatially, water resources allocation and regulation includes the river basin, province, prefecture, county, permit, and individual user levels; temporally, it consists of the annual average and annual/seasonal frameworks; and in terms of definition, it is managed according to abstraction, consumption, and use. In contrast with other countries, China assumes a complicated system for water control due to its vast land area, diverse water resource circumstances, and centralized administrative system. The complex nature of China’s system demands rigorous management techniques and structures. Under this framework, water trades are explored by applying several market mechanisms.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 6. Water Rights System

Abstract
This chapter deals with the legal aspects of the water rights system in China. It introduces the water rights system and its development, its challenges, and suggestions to improve the system. First, the development of the water rights system in China is briefly outlined. Then, the legal framework for this system, which consists of the Constitution of the PRC, the General Principles of Civil Law, the Property Rights Law, and the Water Law, is analyzed. The legally defined water rights are examined, including ownership rights, collective use rights, regional water rights, water abstraction rights, and water rights certificates and water tickets. Finally, current challenges are identified and suggestions to develop and improve the water rights system are proposed.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 7. Water Pricing

Abstract
This chapter analyzes the water pricing framework, the reform process of pricing components, key issues, and suggestions. Water pricing reform in China after 1980 has been an exploration of various policy possibilities. In theory, China has developed a comprehensive, systematic, and advanced water pricing policy and framework. The framework establishes a variety of instruments that could, in principle, deal with various circumstances related to tariffs and their structure. In practice, however, the reform process in China has progressed hesitantly, through a series of trials and errors: in macro-policy, reform has wavered between economic, social, and environmental targets; in policy direction, tariff reform has gradually evolved from a service charge to a resources charge and finally an environmental charge, accompanied by increasing price levels. In future, under the decisive role of the market in the Chinese economy, it will be critical to develop a clear and sustainable water pricing formulation mechanism. Cost recovery should be redeveloped as a key principle for service charges.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 8. Groundwater Management

Abstract
This chapter discusses the groundwater development and problems, management instruments, and institutions in China. China is facing critical groundwater problems, including overdraft, declining water levels, and water quality degradation, resulting in land subsidence and seawater intrusion. At the same time, the current scattered groundwater management system, mainly consisting of development and protection planning, groundwater function zones, FDZs and RDZs, water resources justification reports for construction projects, water abstraction permitting, planned water use and water resources fees, cannot provide an effective and efficient solution. The lack of integrated systems, coordinated management institutions, quality management arrangements, institutional capacity, and coordinated relationships all worsen the current groundwater problems. Thus, China should urgently adopt the aquifermanagement concept, develop a comprehensive groundwater management system, reorganize current groundwater-related management systems, reform abstraction permitting, develop a groundwater quality management system, and build the capacity of its managers.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 9. Water Quality Management

Abstract
This chapter analyzes water quality management in China, including the legal framework, institutional design, key management instruments and problems, and suggestions for improvement. In China, increasing numbers of critical water quality problems have been exposed in recent years. In order to deal with water quality management, China has developed a separate, sectoral management system, where instruments including standards, function zones, permits, and charges are extensively applied. However, this arrangement has resulted in a range of problems, including an unintegrated framework, overlapping functions, focus on pollution control, poor implementation, and inadequate capacity. Solving these problems and improving water quality will be a laborious process for China. However, China can start by fully implementing and reforming the current system, restructuring water quality management institutions, managing its water resources within a river basin context, and encouraging market-based approaches. This would help the country improve not only in terms of its environment but also in terms of its development.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 10. Recycled Water Use Management

Abstract
This chapter analyzes the management of recycled water use in China. The development of recycled water use is introduced. The policy development for recycled water use in the country is reviewed. The management framework, including standards, institutions, and potential management instruments, is discussed. The chapter then discusses the key issues involved in the management of recycled water use, such as the nature of recycled water use, safety, economic rationality, and systematic issues. The management of the recycled water use in China is under development and exploration. Although all governmental policies promote the use of the recycled water in the management aspect, many problems have not been dealt with. With the traditional agencies, including MWR and MOHURD, extending their functions to the recycled water, the unclear management responsibility, as well as agencies and instruments, is inevitable. These problems come from the clarification of the recycled water use. At the same time, safety, economic feasibility, and systematic planning are still the issues in recycled water use management.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 11. The River and Lake Chief System

Abstract
This chapter discusses the newly developed river and lake chief system in China, including the development process, system framework, and implementation. The river and lake chief system is a river and lake management and protection system in China that aims to manage local government leadership on water resources. The system development process demonstrates a combination of bottom-up and top-down approaches. The system was first adopted in certain specific prefectures and was subsequently extended to other provinces across the whole country. The river chief system was developed at the provincial, prefecture, county, and township levels. The mechanisms of river chief meeting, information sharing, and supervision were introduced to solve the key problems associated with river and lake management and protection. The system is not a single system but rather a system aggregation, covering areas such as water resource management, water pollution and river course management. More importantly, the system is not a water resources management system, but rather a leadership management system.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 12. The Strictest Water Resources Management Strategy and Its Three Red Lines

Abstract
This chapter discusses the strictest water resources management strategy, the most important water resources management strategy developed in the water sector in China. The developing background, strategic framework, key tasks (three redlines), and implementation of the strategy are analyzed. The strictest water resources management strategy arose from critical water resources circumstances, a serious water resources problem around 2008 and weak water resources management. The strategy has aimed to develop a modern water resources management system by implementing three redlines of water resources management. The water resources development redline is to implement total water-use volume control; the water-use efficiency redline is to control water waste, and the water function zone pollutant assimilation redline is to control pollutants into water bodies. After development of the strategy, a series of policy documents was issued to support the implementation, and four annual assessments have been conducted. However, some concerns remain, such as the assessment of the water resources manager, rather than of management.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 13. Water Resource Assets Management Reform

Abstract
This chapter analyzes the water resources asset management reform, which aims to develop the water resources ownership rights system in China. The policy framework and key reforms are discussed. The influences on water resources management are examined. The fundamental role of water resources asset management reform is to separate property rights and management power, and further ownership rights and usufructuary rights, by developing and exercising ownership rights. The reform will have a long-term impact on resources development and usage. The significant strengthening of state ownership rights and their benefits develops the basis for resources tax and fee levying as owner’s benefits and increases the potential benefits for usufructuary rights transfer from the owner. The enriched usufructuary rights provide more options to allocate water resources by market mechanism. However, the Ministry of Natural Resources, as an administrative department and an organ of the State Council, exercising ownership rights on behalf of the state may conflict with its management functions. At the same time, the problem exists in the central and local relationship.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 14. Water Resource Allocation and Regulation in Yellow River Basin

Abstract
This chapter introduces water resource allocation and regulation in the Yellow River Basin. The water resources, problems, and their evolution in the river basin are presented. The water resource allocation and changes to the basin plan are analyzed. The water resource regulations at different levels are discussed. At the same time, the water trade, from agricultural savings to industry in the middle reach of the basin, is investigated. The water resource allocation and regulation in the Yellow River Basin is the first modern and most important case of a water rights system in water resources management in China. The allocation target in the Yellow River has changed several times to improve management, from runoff to both surface and groundwater resources, from mainstream to all river basin, and from usage to consumption. At the same time, there have been several technical and managerial linkage issues in the implementation.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 15. Agricultural Water Management in Northern China

Abstract
This chapter analyzes agricultural water resources management in northern China. Agricultural water use and production are introduced. The agricultural water management framework is analyzed. The key reforms related to agricultural water management are investigated, including institutional reform, water pricing, and water rights. At the same time, the external factors influencing agricultural water policy, field-level activities, and environmental concerns are also discussed. China has managed to decouple agricultural production from water use in the past 20 years. In China, managing agricultural water resources involves not only resources development and land use, it is also a critical issue entwined with economic development, social stability, and the health of the environment. Therefore, one single policy reform or improvement can easily become lost in the machinery and fail to reach its target. Such a complex system requires a comprehensive policy structure which can incorporate internal reform and external supports, improve both structural measures and non-structural instruments, and account for macro-level policies and field-level activities.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 16. Integrated Urban and Rural Water Affair Management Reform: Shanghai and Beijing

Abstract
This chapter analyzes integrated urban and rural water affairs management reform in China in the face of changing water resource problems, with case studies of Shanghai and Beijing. The chapter introduces changes in the water sector brought about by rapid socio-economic development, analyzes the institutional basis for conducting reform, and describes the reform process. With Shanghai and Beijing as examples, the chapter examines the characteristics and functions of the Water Affairs Bureau. In terms of water affairs, the relationship between rural and urban regions is becoming closer with increasing urbanization. Significant increases in urban water usage raise the need to reform the patterns of water resources management. Reform in integrated urban and rural water affairs was proposed by China’s water sector and some of its managers in the early 1990s. To some degree, this reform is a merging of water quality, quantity, and urban and rural efforts to improve communication and coordination. The reform process can be divided into a locally initiated reform effort in the early 1990s, an MWR-promoted effort from then until 2008, and a locally decided effort after 2008. The reforms in both Shanghai and Beijing have achieved management efficiency in water resources.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 17. Environmental Flow Definition and Management: A Case Study of the Jiaojiang River, Zhejiang Province

Abstract
This chapter deals with environmental flow management in China using a case study of the Jiaojiang River in Zhejiang Province. The chapter starts with a review of environmental flow research and management in China, followed by a case study combining environmental flow assessment before making recommendations on water resources planning. This chapter outlines a methodology for identifying ecological assets and determining the flows that are important to their health. A pilot study on the Jiaojiang River in Zhejiang Province was used to demonstrate the application of a water resources allocation planning approach, coupled with an environmental flow assessment. A detailed ecological assessment was completed, which formed the basis for identifying important ecological assets and their flow requirements. A water resources management model for part of the river was developed, used to assess the ecological impacts of a proposed dam on the Zhu Creek. Different scenarios were developed to show how different abstraction caps and operational rules could deliver different results in terms of supply reliability and achieving the identified environmental flow requirements. The results indicate that there is significant potential for improving both supply reliability and environmental outcomes through modified operational arrangements.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 18. Climatic Change and Water Resources

Abstract
This chapter provides estimates and evidence of climate change’s impact on water resources in China. The chapter provides both observations and estimates of parameters in the hydrological cycle, including precipitation and water resources. Recommendations are also provided for managing climate change. Past evidence has shown that, jointly impacted by human activities and climate change, water resources have not shifted in humans’ favor. Current water issues are proof that all these changes have happened. In the future, although precipitation will increase in Northern China, surface runoff will decrease, which will further worsen the water shortage. Therefore, all aspects of water resources management, including infrastructure development, non-structural instruments, water saving, and new water sources development, shall be strengthened to solve the present water problems and prepare for future changes. In addition to a multi-adaptive management method, a high climate resilience and low-regrets development pathway shall be adopted in order to increase resilience and reduce potential risk.
Dajun Shen

Chapter 19. Review and Outlook

Abstract
This chapter reviews water policy in China and outlooks for future directions. Water policy in China since 1980 is divided into four periods: the 1980s, 1990–1998, 1998–2009, and after 2009. Since 1980, China’s water policies have experienced dramatic changes: attempting to improve benefits in the face of criticism for low efficiency in the 1980s; allocating large investments to acknowledge the important role of water in the country’s economy during 1990–1998; redefining the water–human relationship during 1998–2009; and providing the strictest water resources management as the definitive solution after 2009. For the future, it is estimated that water resources management, particularly regarding groundwater, will continue to strengthen. Reforms, such as water pricing, institutions, and water rights, will deepen, but water rights development and water quality management will be a long process. Macro- and micro-management instruments will be emphasized, but improving implementation and management of resources, rather than managers, will be a critical issue, and integrated water resources management will be a challenge.
Dajun Shen

Backmatter

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