Committed to the policy of prioritizing water conservation and strengthening water resources management
-Abstracts of article by E Jingping, Minister of Water Resources on the occasion of 2019 World Water Day and China Water Week
Today is the 27th World Water Day, and also the opening day of the 32nd China Water Week. The theme of this year defined by the UN is "Leaving no one behind". The theme of China's commemoration on World Water Day and the campaign of China Water Week is "prioritizing water conservation and strengthening water resources management."
Water is deemed as the mother of the myriad things, the base for human existence, and the source of civilization. China has a big population but relatively scarce water resources which were unevenly distributed spatially and temporally. Water security plays a crucial role in stabilizing development of economy and society and enhancing people’s health and well-being.
Great emphasis has placed on water governance by President Xi Jinping in his remarks. He urges us to safeguard water security and address both old and new water challenges that have emerged along with social and economic development. He calls for actions to "prioritize water conservation, balance spatial distribution, take systematic approaches and give full play to the roles of both government and market", which highlights the needs of transformation from changing and conquering the nature to correction of human behaviors and wrong doings. With profound insights into current situations as well as consideration to the severity of water security in China, this strategic thinking provides basic principles and guidelines for water governance in the new era.
At present, the main challenges faced by China are unbalanced and inadequate development and people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. Therefore, the concept of harmonized coexistence of people and the nature must be kept in our mind and applied. The Chinese government has decided to implement national water-saving actions, take integrated measures for restoration of mountains, waters, forests, farmlands, river and lakes and grasslands, and upgrading water infrastructure and system. All of these clearly specify the direction of water governance and management in the future.
With full understanding of demands on water ecology and environment and deficiency of the water sector in supervision and regulation, we proposed the general principle of water governance of “overcoming weak links of water projects and strengthening supervision of water sector”. Under the guidance of giving priority to water conservation, great importance shall be attached to water resources management throughout the whole process of water governance, integrated with all aspects of economic, social and ecological civilization development. We should continuously enhance our capability of safeguarding national water security and promote sustainable economic and social development through sustainable utilization of water resources, in order to lay out a solid foundation for building a beautiful China and to achieve the two centenary goals.
First, we should put water conservation as a premise for the development and utilization of water resources, implement national water-conservation actions, and increase water use efficiency and benefits. With implementation of national water-saving actions, we shall perfect water-saving system and standards, strengthen water-saving communication campaign and education, supervision and management, so that more considerations are given to water-saving measures before water development, utilization, protection and allocation. We should focus on the following four aspects.
To formulate and amend water-saving standards and quota together with strict law enforcement.
To establish an evaluation mechanism with technical requirements for the approval and assessment of water projects.
To initiate water conservation programs in schools and universities.
To launch water conservation campaign across all water-related sectors under the leadership of the Ministry of Water Resources, so as to spur on the pace of water conservation actions of the general public.
Second, we should properly handle the relationship between water and economic and social development, with water demand management, and capping of excessive water use. We should optimize the scale, structure and layout for a compatible economic and social development in line with the carrying capacity of water resources and environment.
To define and ensure ecological flow for rivers and lakes, establish and perfect monitoring and warning system of ecological flow (water amount), in order to protect the healthy ecological environment of rivers and lakes.
To complete water allocation plans for major river basins, clarify water rights and strengthen cross-section monitoring at provincial boundaries.
To formulate managerial regulations for water resources assessment and policies for capping total water use and implementing water abstraction permit.
Third, we should deal with the relationship between water and other elements in the ecosystem and take integrated measures for protection and restoration of ecological space of rivers and lakes.
To take systematic approaches for mountain, water, forest, field, lake and grassland improvement, by integrating water governance with mountain, water, forest, farmland, lake and grassland and harmonized coexistence of all elements in the ecosystem.
To implement river chief and lake chief systems across the country and build a protection mechanism for river and lake with clear responsibility, effective coordination and regulation.
To eliminate illegal occupation, mining, and construction and restore the ecological space for rivers and lakes.
To initiate pilot project of ecological flow and groundwater recharge in North China, through measures of water saving, water source replacement and adjustment of plantation pattern, so as to curb groundwater over-exploitation and reach a balance between abstraction and recharge.
To optimize water allocation, connectivity of river and lake reservoir water system and strengthen management and protection of drinking water sources.
Fourth, we should make full play of the roles of government and market, so as to make fundamental change of ways of water consumption. Governments should focus on water management and supervision, and reduce allocation of market resources or intervention into market activities.
To enact and enforce rules and regulations for water conservation, river and lake enhancement and groundwater management.
To initiate smart water and intelligent information system for water resources monitoring.
To reform investment and financing system and encourage private sector in participation of construction and operation of water conservation projects.
To expand scope of water resources tax collection and, and use the tax as a leverage to optimize water allocation and conservation.
To reform of agricultural water pricing system and implement control of total agricultural water consumption and quota management.
To reform domestic and industrial water pricing system by applying control of total water consumption and over-quota progressive tariff.
To specify water right and foster market for water trading, so as to enable a transfer from low benefit to high benefit use.