China's per capita freshwater availability is only a quarter of the world average. Moreover, there is too little water in the north for grains and power generation while the south has suffered from massive floods throughout history. What is more, most of China's water courses, lakes, rivers, and aquifers have now become polluted. So, water security is a serious threat to national security and social stability.
The long-waited "Water Ten Plan" (Directives) were finally issued by the State Council on 16 April. The outcome of coordination & inputs from more than 12 ministries and government departments, the Action Plan tries to -
"Control pollution discharge, promote economic & industrial transformation and save & recycle resources; Promote science & technology progress, use market mechanisms and enforce law & regulations; Strengthen management & ensure water environment safety; and Clarify responsibilities & encourage public participation".
In total, there are 238 specific actions involved, probably the most comprehensive water policy to date. Overall objectives & targets are as follows -
"By 2020, China’s water environment quality will gradually improve through the following actions -
(a) To greatly reduce the percentage of badly polluted water bodies – over 70% of water in 7 key rivers shall reach Grade III or above (more here);
(b) To improve the quality of drinking water – over 93% of urban drinking water sources shall reach Grade III or above (more here);
(c) To reduce groundwater over-extraction and control groundwater pollution – groundwater falling under “very bad” category shall decrease to around 15% (more here)
(d) To improve the environmental quality of coastal areas – up to 70% of coastal water shall reach Grade I or II;
(e) Improve urban water environment in key regions – the amount of Grade V+ water in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei shall fall by 15%, and Grade V+ water shall be eliminated in Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta;
(f) By 2030, the over quality of the ecological environment will be improved; and
(g) By the middle of 21st century, the quality of the ecological environment should be fully improved and the ecosystem should realize a virtuous cycle."
The following key water bodies & areas are being focused -
- 7 key rivers: Yangtze, Yellow, Pearl, Songhua, Huai, Hai & Liao River;
- 9 key coastal bays;
- 3 key regions: Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei, Yangtze River Delta & Pearl River Delta; and
- 36 key cities: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, 27 provincial capitals & 5 cities specifically designated in the state plan (including Dalian, Ningbo, Qingdao, Shenzhen & Xiamen).
A host of polluting industries are targeted.
"Moreover, the plan also covers pollution control, water efficiency improvement in agriculture, municipal water use, coastal water management and overall ecological environment protection. Controlling total water use to stay within the Three Red Lines is key".
"To stay within the 2020 cap of 670 billion m3 of water use, the Water Ten Plan uses a mix of water efficiency targets and market mechanisms such as water tariff reform, revised water fees, credit financing and environment performance and eco-compensation".
"The government expects the new plan to boost GDP by around RMB5.7 trillion and to result in RMB1.9 trillion of new investment in the environmental protection related industries (in which RMB1.4 trillion will go to purchasing products & services) and create 3.9 million new non-agriculture jobs".
The above excerpts are taken from a summary of the "Water Ten Plan" in ChinaWater Risks, a global think-thank on China's water risks based in Hong Kong.