Water Law 2002: From China People’s Daily (September 07, 2002):

Compared to the original Water Law, which was drawn up and came into force in 1988, the revised version stresses unified management of water resources. It highlights efficient water consumption, steps up macro management and spells out a national strategy on water resources. It stresses the importance of a balance between water resources and the population, economic development and the environment and values environmental protection amid development, plus legal responsibilities in case of violations.”

Experts believe the revised law is calculated to build a water efficient and pollution-free society, achieve sustainable use of water resources and promote sustainable social and economic development.

The new law focuses on improved efficiency in water use. It highlights saving, protection and rational distribution of water resources in an effort to promote a balance between resources and social and economic development and the environment, experts say.”

2002 Water Law demonstrates a legislative and hence implied water management shift in the following areas:

1.Water Conservation and Water Savings: Strong emphasis is given to comprehensive and integrated development, management and conservation of water resources on a sustainable basis taking into account social needs and ecological environmental protection. Specifically this requires determining ‘rational’ river flow, lake and groundwater levels (minimum flows/levels) and wetlands/estuaries protection. The Law encourages and promotes water use efficiency and water saving practices and technologies.

2.Social and Environmental Considerations: Most water plans require that the National Social & Economic Development Plans are taken into account, together with the local conditions and needs of the inhabitants, land use plans and the maintenance and/or improvement of ecological environment. Through the detailed planning process, the water drawing permit system, the dissemination and participative processes, and the plan driven operational requirements, a foundation will be set in place for greater transparency, equity and efficiency in the access and payment for water use by all levels of the economic spectrum, with an anticipated greater benefit for those with a lower income to improve their quality of life. This is the social/public function of water. The function of treating water as an economic good / ‘commodity’ is covered in the next item.

3.Water Allocation Water Permits and Water Fees: Allocation, distribution and regulation of water resources is to be through a water drawing permit system linked to pay for use water charges and resources fee systems according to trade/sector quotas and annual water availability conditions. The intent of the State is to recover a portion of the operational water management costs for public use of water through a resources fee and for facilities and services provided by suppliers (government or other) through water charges.

4.Planning: Unified planning and management at national, major and other inter-provincial and intra-provincial rivers, lakes and groundwaters is to be according to basin boundaries and basin allocations among respective provinces through various basin and regional comprehensive and special plans and water allocation and mid/long term plans and the system of total amount control and quota management. The array of plans presented in the new Water Law is very encouraging, but will require considerable conceptualisation of order and scope for them to be non-conflicting and effective as a whole. A timely approval process with periodic review and revision will be essential whilst broad stakeholder involvement will require effort to achieve this. There is also the important point that these plans should be implemented and be live plans subject to change where necessary.

5.Water Quantity/Quality Management: The Water Law makes clear distinction between MWR and water agencies’ responsibilities for water bodies; SEPA and environmental agencies responsibilities in water quality and discharge standards and regulation; and joint responsibilities for pollution prevention and standards attainment. It is clearly specified that the water administration departments should monitor water quality conditions and that where problems are identified these are to be brought to the attention of the environmental protection administration. The water and environmental departments are to work jointly on planning activities. These provisions should have a significant impact in the future on maintaining good water quantity and water quality management at the basin level, providing the agencies involved cooperate and coordinate effectively. This should help achieve good water quality status in water bodies.

6.Institutional Reform: The designation of responsibilities of SC, and of MWR, SDPC and others and provincial to county level counterparts; together with the requirement for the preparation of function division plans to carry out agencies’ activities through interagency knowledge and agreement of who has what areas of responsibilities (looks similar to interagency agreements). The institutional frameworks at various levels will need extensive assessment of their new directions and roles, followed by the necessary structural, administrative and management adjustments. Recognition of the rights of economic collective organisations to invest and keep the benefits is a noticeable change. This is understood to relate to WUAs and SIDDs.

7.Data and Information: Without a doubt the most fundamental element to implement the new Water Law. The provisions provide for setting up data and information systems at all levels and making that data available to stakeholders. The form and details need defining in supporting regulations or guidelines.

8.Supervision and Enforcement: Provisions are incorporated in the Law for establishing supervision and inspection procedures for implementing the Water Law with stronger enforcement and liability provisions for violations.

The Water Resources Demand Management Assistance Project is aimed at assisting in the implementation of the changes in water manangement approaches implied by the Water Law.

Mott MacDonald DFID China Water