Volume 28, Issue 2

June 2012
Special Issue on Water Quality Policy and Management in Asia

Foreword »
Kishore Mahbubani

Editorial »

Cecilia Tortajada

Research Article

Water Quality: Assessment of the Current Situation in Asia

Alexandra E.V. Evansa, Munir A. Hanjrab, Yunlu Jiangc, Manzoor Qadird and Pay Drechsele
aInternational Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka; bCharles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, NSW, Australia Future Directions International, Perth, Australia; cCollege of Water Conservancy and Hydropower, University of Hohai, Nanjing, China; dUnited Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Hamilton, Canada; eInternational Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Contact: Alexandra Evans | Email: a.evans@cgiar.org


The uncontrolled release of sewage, industrial wastes, and agricultural run-off continue to affect Asia. Although many Asian countries are getting closer to meeting the improved sanitation targets, much of the waste remains untreated. Comprehensive databases are rarely available and national data indicate that the water quality situation is serious. However, there are many signs of hope. Water quality monitoring efforts are improving and several countries now have systems in place that could guide other nations in the region. The efforts of basin agencies, such as the Mekong River Commission, could lead the way to transboundary or even regional assessments. Many regulatory and economic options are being tested for pollution control, but institutional and social challenges remain, in particular those related to population growth and the various ways in which it is affecting water quality across the region.

Pages: 195-216


Research Article

Economic Incentives Can Enhance Policy Efforts to Improve Water Quality in Asia 

Soumya Balasubramanya and Dennis Wichelns
International Water Management Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Contact: Dennis Wichelns | Email: d.wichelns@cgiar.org


This article describes the conceptual advantages of including economic incentives in the basket of policy alternatives available for motivating improvements in water quality. With a particular focus on Asia, we discuss the incentives available for encouraging reductions in point and nonpoint source pollutants in urban, rural, and peri-urban settings. Several countries in Asia are implementing some form of economic incentives, either directly, in the form of effluent taxes or subsidies, or in combination with regulatory measures that help to ensure water quality standards are achieved. We also describe the importance of institutional capacity and political will in support of economic incentives, and the increasing usefulness of incentive programmes as economies develop and expand. The discussion includes several examples of programmes in China and Thailand, along with observations from India, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.

Pages: 217-231


Research Article

Exploring the Boundaries of Water Quality Management in Asia

James E. Nickum
International Water Resources Association

Contact: James E. Nickum | Email: nickumtjk@gmail.com


Beginning with the case of iodine-131 detection in Tokyo’s water supply in March 2011, this paper explores the boundaries of water quality management, with focus on Asian cities. Boundaries include those of definition, of measurement, of the significance of measurements, of public perceptions and trust, of disjunctures between human and natural systems, of disintegrated water resources management, and of social and political marginality. Delineating these boundaries, most of them well known, is not a call for inaction or despair, but for clarity and recognition of the difficult road ahead.

Pages: 233-245


Research Article

Emerging Contaminants and the Implications for Drinking Water

John Fawella and Choon Nam Ongb
aWater Science Institute, Cranfield University, Cranfield, UK; bEnvironmental Research Institute and School of Public Health, National University of Singapore

Contact: John Fawell | Email: john.fawell@johnfawell.co.uk


Advancements in sensitive analytical methods now give scientists the ability to detect trace amounts of chemicals in our water sources and drinking water supplies. As a result, recent studies are revealing the presence of pharmaceuticals, personal care products, fire retardants, nanomaterials, and other substances we use at home and at work. These substances are commonly referred to as “emerging contaminants”. However, the consequences, if any, of exposure to these compounds and their mixtures at low levels is still far from clear. This article gives an overview on a topic that has attracted much media attention and attempts to suggest how the scientific community should handle the knowledge gap.

Pages: 247-263


Research Article

An Overview of Policies Impacting Water Quality and Governance in India

S.R. Wate
National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, Nagpur, (CSIR-NEERI), India

Contact: S.R. Wate | Email: director@neeri.res.in


Water is one of the most crucial elements in developmental planning of India for the 21st century. The growth of urban megalopolises, increased industrial activity and dependence of the agricultural sector on chemicals and fertilizers has resulted in the overcharging of the carrying capacity of the water bodies to assimilate and decompose wastes. Several ambitious legal and institutional measures and projects like the Water Pollution Act, Pollution Control Boards, and the National River Action Plan have yielded no significant results. There is a need to bring about a perceivable shift in philosophy and address water problems to meet the demands of a growing population by improving efficiency, prioritizing the water demand sector-wise, and adopting policies and practices that check resource degradation.

Pages: 265-279


Research Article

Water Quality Management in China

Dajun Shen
School of Environment and Natural Resources, Renmin University of China, Beijing

Contact: Dajun Shen | Email: dajunshen@yahoo.com


This paper analyzes water quality management in China in terms of legislation, institutions, and management instruments, and provides suggestions on improving the system. China has developed a separate, sectoral water quality management system where instruments including standards, function zones, permits, and charges are extensively applied. Nevertheless, problems such as lack of integrated frameworks, overlapping functions, focus on pollution control, poor implementation, and inadequate capacity limit its effectiveness. China should fully implement and reform the current system, restructure water quality management institutions, manage its water resources in a river basin context, and encourage market-based approaches.

Pages: 281-297


Research Article

An Integrated Management Approach for Water Quality and Quantity: Case Studies in North China

Jun Xia
State Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering, Wuhan University, and Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Process, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Contact: Jun Xia | Email: xiaj@igsnrr.ac.cn


This paper presents a systematic concept of integrated water resources quantity and quality assessment and develops a new approach to assess available water resources for water quality management. The method considers not only environmental flow demand in a river system but also water quality objectives as determined by water service function regionalization in the river. The method was applied in North China in basins with different conditions. The results show that this integrated assessment approach provides useful information for decision making concerning allocation of available water resources under the water quality and environmental flow constraints, indicating the need to reduce wastewater loads to reach specific water quality standards.

Pages: 299-312


Research Article

Institutional Capacity on Water Pollution Control of the Pearl River in Guangzhou, China

Yuan Yu, Dieudonné-Guy Ohandja and J. Nigel B. Bell
Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London, UK

Contact: Dieudonné Guy Ohandja | Email: d.ohandja@imperial.ac.uk


This paper analyzes the role of the prevalent formal and informal institutions in Guangzhou in alleviating deteriorating water quality in the Pearl River. In addition to the dominating role of the local government, it examines the influences of other relevant factors such as the role of environmental non-governmental organizations, the media, and the impact of social and cultural norms. It concludes that the current institutional framework is not sufficiently competent to handle water pollution problems and that a multi-dimensional and cross-sectoral approach is necessary for water pollution control in the Pearl River in Guangzhou.

Pages: 313-324


Research Article

Soil Erosion Control and Sediment Load Reduction in the Loess Plateau: Policy Perspectives

Zhongbao Xina, Lishan Ranb and X.X. Lub
aCollege of Soil and Water Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing, China; bDepartment of Geography, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Contact: X.X. Lu | Email: geoluxx@nus.edu.sg


The sediment load of the Loess Plateau has shown a sharp decreasing trend in the past decades. This paper gives a comprehensive review of the driving factors of the sediment decrease with respect to human activities, including soil and water conservation, dam construction, and vegetation restoration. Also presented is an overview of the main achievements of soil and water conservation and the main soil erosion control programmes implemented in the Loess Plateau. The paper concludes with suggestions for further policy modifications that could move management towards ecological sustainability and will be greatly beneficial to the regional water resources management and restoration of an eco-environmental system in the Loess Plateau.

Pages: 325-341


Research Article

Managing Urban Rivers and Water Quality in Malaysia for Sustainable Water Resources

Ngai Weng Chan
School of Humanities, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang

Contact: Ngai Weng Chan | Email: nwchan@usm.my


Rivers are rich ecosystems and sources of life, providing many functions for the survival of natural and human systems. In Malaysia, due to poor management and public apathy, they are severely degraded. Rapid development and urbanization have also overstressed and polluted them, and governance practices are mostly focused on managing water shortages, floods, and pollution. Limitations include low priority in the political agenda, inadequate economic, managerial, and human resources, poor enforcement of laws and regulations, poor public involvement, and inadequate use of non-structural measures. Recent government, private sector, and NGO partnerships, however, have shown great potential for improved management of rivers.

Pages: 343-354


Research Article

Improving Groundwater Quality Management for the Sustainable Utilization of the Bangkok Aquifer System

Mukand S. Babela, Aldrin A. Rivasa, Ashim Das Guptaa and Yatsuka Kataokab
aWater Engineering and Management, School of Engineering and Technology, Asian Institute of Technology, Pathumthani, Thailand; bFreshwater Group, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Kanagawa, Japan

Contact: Mukand S. Babel | Email: msbabel@ait.asia


Several measures have been implemented to address the negative environmental consequences brought about by the overexploitation of groundwater resources in the Bangkok Aquifer System. However, such measures were mainly directed to quantity issues such as resource depletion and land subsidence, whereas quality aspects seem to have been given less attention. Given that quality deterioration, mainly chloride contamination, has affected groundwater users, this article evaluates current groundwater quality management practices in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region, points out the challenges, and provides some specific recommendations for the sustainable utilization of the valuable resource.

Pages: 355-371


Research Article

Nutrient Balance Assessment in the Mekong Basin: Nitrogen and Phosphorus Dynamics in a Catchment Scale

Ina Liljeström, Matti Kummu and Olli Varis
Water and Development Research Group, Aalto University, Finland

Contact: Ina Liljestrom | Email: ina.liljestrom@gmail.com


Tropical regions are typically rather poorly covered by nutrient enrichment information, despite their soaring population, urbanization, industrialization, and intensifying agriculture. We provide an overview of nutrient fluxes and their temporal and spatial patterns in the Mekong River for 1985 –2005. Total inorganic nitrogen fluxes increased significantly, while phosphorus fluxes increased less steeply. The majority of fluxes originated from agricultural and from forest and shrubland areas. Although the Mekong is not yet facing severe water quality problems, the concurrent rapid development can be expected to accelerate nutrient enrichment. There is thus an urgent need to improve water quality monitoring and pollution control measures, and to give water quality issues more weight at the policy level.

Pages: 373-391


News Item »

TWCWM International Prize for Outstanding Contributions to Water Management