Third World Centre for Water Management

Journals

Volume 25, Issue 2

Special Issue: The Development of a Water Rights System in China

ONLINE ACCESS TO THIS ISSUE

INTRODUCTION
The Development of a Water Rights System in China


WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA (pp. 193-208)

Bin Liua and Robert Speedb

aWater Resources Management, Department of Water Resources, Ministry of Water Resources, Beijing, People’s Republic of China; bIndependent Consultant, Oakey, Queensland, Australia

Contact: Robert Speed, e-mail: robert_a_speed@yahoo.com.au

Abstract: Rapid economic growth in China has presented great challenges to its water resource managers due to a scarcity of water resources, severe water pollution, growing domestic and industrial water demands, and requirements for food security. This paper provides an overview of water resources in China and its management. It describes the key water issues faced by China, as well as the institutional, legal and regulatory arrangements in place to address these challenges. This includes approaches to water resources allocation and management, pollution control, and water use efficiency. The paper concludes with a discussion of the priorities and challenges for the water sector, the progress that has been made to date and the improvements that will be required to ensure the long-term sustainable use of China’s water resources.


WATER RESOURCES ALLOCATION IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA (pp. 209-225)

Dajun Shena and Robert Speedb

aChina Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing, People’s Republic of China; bIndependent Consultant, Oakey, Queensland, Australia

Contact: Dajun Shen, e-mail: dajunshen@yahoo.com

Abstract: Water resources allocation is a process for changing the natural or status quo distribution of water resources to meet requirements for economic and social development. The uneven distribution of water resources across China, both in space and time, makes water resources allocation of particular importance. China has developed a legal framework for the allocation of water resources that operates at three levels: at the river basin/regional level, at the abstractor level, and within public water supply systems. China has also built related systems to manage these allocations. Water resources allocation planning, and the implementation of related management systems, is occurring across China. However, there are significant problems in respect of how issues of integration and consistency between these three levels of allocation are addressed. Water resources allocation plans will need to be adopted as regulatory instruments, rather than the spirational targets they currently are, to provide greater certainty for water users. Reversing the degrading health of rivers and freshwater ecosystems will require plans to set aside more water to meet ecological flow requirements. At a more basic level, the allocation and planning process would benefit greatly from utilization of water resources management models and increased stakeholder involvement.


IRRIGATION DEVELOPMENT AND WATER RIGHTS REFORM IN CHINA (pp. 227-248)

Roger C. Calowa, Simon E. Howarthb and Jinxia Wangc

aWater Policy Consultant, Beijing People’s Republic of China; bMott MacDonald, Cambridge, UK; cCentre for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Institute of Geographical Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

Contact: Roger C. Calow, e-mail: r.calow@odi.org.uk

Abstract: This article describes the growth and importance of irrigation in China in terms of the expansion of surface water irrigation led by the state, and the more recent acceleration of groundwater irrigation led by individual farmers. Key management challenges and policy priorities are outlined, highlighting the importance of water conservation and integrated water resources management under the 2002 Water Law. The article then describes the basis for rights definition and allocation planning under the Law, and recent experience with implementation in surface water and groundwater contexts. A key conclusion is that the development of a modern water rights system in China is vital for mediating between the claims of competing uses, particularly at the agricultural–industrial–urban interfaces, and for meeting water conservation and reallocation objectives. At the same time, farmers within irrigation districts and in emerging groundwater economies need clearly defined rights to encourage investment in the farm economy and to provide security of supply. Implementing new systems in a country the size of China is a major challenge, however, particularly across large rural aquifers where groundwater development is increasingly opportunistic and farmer-led.


URBAN WATER MANAGEMENT IN CHINA (pp. 249-268)

Martin Cosiera and Dajun Shenb

aIndependent Consultant, WEST End, Queensland, Australia; bChina Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

Contact: Martin Cosier, e-mail: martincosier@gmail.com

Abstract: This paper summarizes the urban water management framework that China’s central government has adopted to manage the supply of water to the country’s urban areas. These laws, policies and institutional arrangements cover water resources management, urban planning and environmental management issues. This paper considers the application of this framework in three urban areas: Beijing, Shanghai and Shaoxing Prefecture in Zhejiang Province. These case studies are used as the basis of a discussion on the ways that the framework could be enhanced, both structurally and in terms of its implementation.


TRANSFERRING AND TRADING WATER RIGHTS IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA (pp. 269-281)

Robert Speed, Independent Consultant, Oakey, Queensland, Australia

E-mail: robert_a_speed@yahoo.com.au

Abstract: Cap and trade systems are becoming increasingly common in water resources management as a mechanism to allow water to move to its highest value use. China too is taking steps down this path with the development of a ‘water rights transfer system’. While this system is still in an embryonic stage, a number of government-facilitated projects have already demonstrated its likely form. These projects include the sale of long-term water access rights from one regional government to another, as well as water savings projects in large irrigation districts, with rights to the ‘saved’ water transferred to industry. These transactions are often occurring in a regulatory environment where water rights and the rules governing them are not clearly defined, and in the absence of a strong framework for managing water transfers. This can create ambiguity over the nature of the right being transferred. There is also significant risk of unintended, adverse impacts—to other water users and the environment—if water is reallocated between users in the absence of defined entitlements to water.


APPROACHES TO PROVIDING AND MANAGING ENVIRONMENTAL FLOWS IN CHINA (pp. 283-300)

Xiqin Wanga, Yuan Zhangb and Cassandra Jamesc

aSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China; bRiver and Coastal Environmental Research Centre, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences, Beijing, China; cAustralian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, QLD 4111, Australia

Contact: Xiqin Wang, e-mail: wxiqin@ruc.edu.cn

Abstract: This paper reviews the course of research on environmental flows in China. It briefly summarizes the history of environmental flows research and introduces twenty approaches used in China to calculate environmental flows. This includes methods adapted from overseas applications and those developed in China to tackle specific environmental issues. The paper gives examples of the implementation of environmental flows in China and identifies some of the deficiencies in environmental flow methodologies. Finally, it discusses obstacles facing the successful implementation of environmental flows in China and suggests the steps required to relieve these impediments.


AN ASSET-BASED, HOLISTIC, ENVIRONMENTAL FLOWS ASSESSMENT APPROACH (pp. 301-330)

Christopher J. Gippela, Nick R. Bondb, Cassandra Jamesc and Xiqin Wangd

aFluvial Systems Pty Ltd, Stockton, New South Wales, Australia; bFaculty of Science, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia; cAustralian Rivers Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland, Australia; dSchool of Environment and Natural Resources, Renmin University of China, Beijing, People’s, Republic of China

Contact: Christopher J. Gippel, e-mail: fluvialsystems@fastmail.net

Abstract: This paper describes a site-based, ecological asset-based, holistic environmental flows assessment approach, and demonstrates its application to reaches of the Jiaojiang (Jiao River) Basin, Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, the People’s Republic of China. The methodology broadly combines information on ecological and other assets associated with the river system (in this case, fish, vegetation, water quality and geomorphology) together with information that links these assets to aspects of the flow regime via hydraulic relationships. This is a site-based methodology, and it requires a medium-level effort and budget. The methodology hinges on being able to gain a basic understanding of the ecology and geomorphology of the stream system, having daily flow series’ available, and having the capacity to develop hydraulic models. A comparison of the flow regimes recommended for the Jiaojiang reaches with recommendations derived from two hydrology-only methods found little correspondence. This was explained by the failure of hydrology-only methodologies to take into account the downstream change in the relationship between a river’s geomorphic and hydrologic characteristics (i.e. expressed as hydraulics). Also, the ecological assumptions made by the hydrology-only methods cannot necessarily be applied in a generic way.


BALANCING ENVIRONMENTAL FLOWS NEEDS AND WATER SUPPLY RELIABILITY (pp. 331-353)

Christopher J. Gippela, Martin Cosierb, Sharmil Markarc, Changshun Liud

aFluvial Systems Pty Ltd, Stockton, New South Wales, Australia; bIndependent Consultant, West End, Queensland, Australia; cWRM Water & Environment Pty Ltd, Paddington, Queensland, Australia; dWater Development Research Center, Ministry of Water Resources, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

Contact: Christopher J. Gippel, e-mail: fluvialsystems@fastmail.net

Abstract: This paper describes an approach to the integration of environmental flows recommendations into water resources planning, and demonstrates its application to a case study in the Jiaojiang Basin, Taizhou, Zhejiang Province, the People’s Republic of China. In this approach, environmental flows recommendations were provided to the process as a preferred regime, and also as one or more sub-optimal regimes. A risk assessment approach was used to derive the sub-optimal regimes from the preferred regime. The environmental flows rules were then incorporated into a wider water resources model which allowed testing of any number of development scenarios. The model-predicted daily time series’ of river flows were passed through a sophisticated form of spells analysis to evaluate the degree of compliance with a specified environmental flows regime. This degree of compliance was balanced against the predicted security of supply to water users. This integrated approach allowed for a greater appreciation of environmental concerns by planners. It also provided an opportunity to the scientists who undertook the environmental flows assessment to contribute to the process of making rational trade-offs between risks to the environment and gains in security of supply.


A HARMONIOUS WATER RIGHTS ALLOCATION MODEL FOR SHIYANG RIVER BASIN, GANSU PROVINCE, CHINA (pp. 355-371)

Zhongjing Wang, Hang Zheng and Xuefeng Wang, State Key Laboratory of Hydroscience and Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084; Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, People’s Republic of China

Contact: Zhongjing Wang, e-mail: zj.wang@tsinghua.edu.cn

Abstract: This paper summarizes water rights allocation principles based on the experience of international and domestic water rights allocation, and presents a water rights allocation model based on the principles of security, sustainability, fairness and efficiency. Applying the model to the Shiyang River Basin in Gansu Province, China, surfacewater and the groundwater rights in the basin are defined and allocated for current and future years. A comparison between allocation results from this study and water allocation plans set out in the “Focus Restoration Plan of Shiyang River Basin” demonstrates that water allocation based on current levels and patterns of water use is relatively straightforward, but that defining and allocating rights according to future demands and management needs is more uncertain. Nevertheless, to address the serious problem of water resource over-exploitation in the Shiyang River Basin, an initial water rights allocation based on future projections of planned water use is proposed. This will help support water conservation efforts in areas such as Minqin County, a downstream area of the Shiyang River where water resources degradation is particularly severe.


A WATER RIGHTS CONSTITUTION FOR HANGJIN IRRIGATION DISTRICT, INNER MONGOLIA, CHINA (pp. 373-387)

Hang Zhenga, Zhongjing Wanga, You Lianga and Roger Calowb

aTsinghua University, Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Beijing 100084, China; bWater Policy Consultant, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

Contact: Hang Zheng, e-mail: zhenghang00@mails.tsinghua.edu.cn

Abstract: In order to supply water for growing industrial needs in Ordos City, Hangjin Irrigation District on the south bank of the Yellow River, Inner Mongolia has traded some of its irrigation water to downstream factories. The trading is termed “irrigation water-saving supported by industrial investment, with saved water traded to industry”. At the same time, Hangjin Irrigation District has conducted a comprehensive reform of irrigation water management focused on water rights. This paper describes the current status of water management in the district, outlines some of the problems water trading has produced, and presents a framework for further water rights reform focused on rights allocation, the granting of volumetrically-capped water certificates and tickets, water use planning and monitoring, and the responsibilities of water user associations in ensuring that individual farmers receive fair allocations. The paper then summarizes key recommendations of relevance to Hangjin and other irrigation districts in China.


A COMPARISON OF WATER RIGHTS SYSTEMS IN CHINA AND AUSTRALIA (pp. 389-405)

Robert Speed, Independent Consultant, Oakey, Queensland, Australia

E-mail: robert_a_speed@yahoo.com.au

Abstract: This paper describes and compares the reforms in China and Australia associated with granting water users better defined, more secure and (often) tradable entitlements to water. The paper considers the lessons that each country may learn from, and teach to, the other. The paper discusses policy issues and solutions in both countries in respect of: risk sharing and compensation for changes to rights; environmental flows; trans-jurisdictional approaches to water rights; trading water rights; and integrating water rights within the broader water supply and catchment management framework.

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