Prioritize saving water and building happy rivers and lakes
---Written on the occasion of 2020 World Water Day and China Water Week
H.E. E Jingping
Minister of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China
March 22nd is the 28th "World Water Day". Meanwhile, the 33rd "China Water Week" commenced on March 22, 2020, and the United Nations announce "water and climate change" as the yearly theme of "World Water Day 2020". "Prioritize saving water and building happy rivers and lakes" is the subject of "World Water Day" activities in China and the "China Water Week".
Since the 18th CPC National Congress, the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core has attached great importance to water conservancy. General Secretary Xi Jinping has made important speeches and issued significant instructions on water governance on several occasions. He has put forward the water management philosophy of "prioritizing water conservation, balancing spatial distribution, taking systematic approaches, and giving full play to the roles of both government and the market", and made important arrangements to jointly conduct well-coordinated environment conservation and avoid excessive development in the Yangtze River economic belt as well as jointly implement ecological conservation and promote sound governance in the Yellow River basin in a coordinated way, issuing a great call to build happy rivers for people’s benefit, and providing scientific guidelines and fundamental compliance for promoting water governance in the new era.
The protection and management of rivers and lakes is a grand plan for the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. To build happy rivers and lakes for people’s benefit, water governance must be conducted in an effective way. China has special geographical and climatic conditions, with more people and less water, and uneven spatial and temporal distribution of water resources, and is confronted with the most complex water regime and the most challenging water governance in the world. Based on the basic characteristics of the mismatch between water resource endowment and the economic and social development layout, it is of strategic importance for China to conduct long-term development, and deal with bottlenecks caused by water shortages and the increased water demand from economic and social development. We must thoroughly study and unshakably implement the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's important speeches on water management, firmly grasp the main line of adjusting people's behavior and correcting people's wrong doing, take water resources as the most rigid constraint, ensure water resource conservation and protection throughout the whole process of improving weak links in water projects and strengthening supervision and management of water sector and fit in all aspects of economic and social development and ecological civilization construction, and scientifically plan the strategic pattern of water resource allocation, in order to promote the realization of the goals of river governance and protection that integrate flood safety, high-quality water, healthy water ecology, a livable water environment and advanced water culture, so as to build happy rivers and lakes that benefit the people.
First, promoting water conservation in all sectors. Water is not an unlimited resource, and we must adhere to the priority of water conservation, take water conservation as the premise of water development, utilization, protection, allocation and scheduling, and promote the transformation of the water use mode to conservation. It is necessary to define water-saving standards, establish a water-saving standard system covering water-saving target control, planning and design, evaluation priorities and measurement, and improve the water quota system covering different crops, industrial products and service industries, to promote water-saving as the basis for restricting water use behavior. We should implement water-saving evaluation, comprehensively carry out water-saving evaluation of planning and construction projects, strictly examine and approve applications for new water abstraction licenses, strictly restrain projects that fail to meet water-saving standards, carry out water efficiency identification, water-saving certification and credit evaluation, and ensure water conservation from the source. We need to deepen the reform of water prices, establish a multi-level water supply price system that reflects the scarcity of water resources, market supply and demand, water consumption differences and water supply costs, appropriately widen the price difference between high water consumption industries and other industries, implement comprehensive reform of agricultural water prices, and achieve water conservation by price leverage. We need to promote water-saving technologies, establish an innovation system with deep integration of production, education and research, conduct in-depth research on water-saving technologies and equipment, vigorously promote tried-and-tested water-saving technologies and equipment, and comprehensively improve the overall level of water-saving. We should do a good job in water-saving carriers, take comprehensive measures for water conservation and control, increase efficiency of agricultural water use, water conservation of different industrial sectors and emission reduction, saving water in urban areas and leakage reduction, summarize practices of contract-based water conservation, initiate quick actions for water conservation in various institutions and universities, establish a water-saving society at county level, and comprehensively improve water use efficiency in all sectors and industries.
Second, implementing fair and equitable water allocation. Water needs to be used in the upstream and downstream, as well as the left and right banks of a river. Fair and equitable water allocation can not only cap the total water consumption, but also avoid excessive development and utilization, and promote water conservation in general. We need to return water to rivers, adhere to the policies of adjusting measures to local conditions and “one river one plan”, accelerate the determination of the ecological flow of rivers and lakes across the country, compile a list of important rivers and lakes for ecological flow protection, improve the measures for ecological flow protection of key rivers and lakes, strictly control the ecological flow, and ensure the healthy life of rivers and lakes. We need to apportion rivers, define the water distribution index of river basins and the control index of regional total water consumption, the groundwater level and the double control index of water quantity according to the principle of division, divide the available water quantity into different administrative regions step by step, and clarify the water rights of river basins and regions. We need to define demands on the basis of water, and put forward the control indexes of domestic water use, industrial water use and agricultural water use, according to different regions, the total available water amount and water quota, and combine this with the strategic layout of local economic and social development, in order to truly realize the goals of planning of a city, land, population and production based on water conditions.
Third, bringing water use under strict supervision. In order to implement the strictest water resource management system, we must pay close attention to the supervision of water use, control and manage the specific water use behavior, and realize the whole process of supervision from the water source to the tap. In order to realize monitoring, we should accelerate the construction of the water resources monitoring system, take the important sections of rivers, key water intakes and groundwater over-exploitation areas as the main monitoring objects, improve the national, provincial and municipal monitoring lists of key water use units, build an all-weather water use monitoring system and gradually implement online monitoring, and strengthen the analysis and application of monitoring data. We need to implement strict supervision, strengthen the supervision of water supply, consumption, discharge and other aspects, incorporate the illegal records of water users into the national unified credit information sharing platform, and correct the behavior of disorderly water use, excessive water use, excessive groundwater intake and non-metered water use. We will strengthen water permit management and water resource assessment, perfect the water abstract licensing system for prohibiting issue of water permits in over-exploited areas, and comprehensively implement electronic water permits. We will strictly supervise and inspect water resources management, do a good job in assessing the most strictest water resources management system, and give full play to the role of incentives and constraints.
Fourth, diverting water in a scientific manner. To promote "spatial balance", we should not only strengthen the rigid restriction of water resources on the demand side, but also enhance the scientific allocation and effective management on the supply side. On the basis of carrying out the evaluation of current national water resource development and utilization, and identifying basins and regions at high, moderate and low water development and utilization levels, we should adhere to overall consideration, implement policies in different areas, and promote the construction of cross-regional and inter basin water diversion projects in an appropriate and orderly manner, in order to provide water resources guarantee for the sustainable and healthy economic and social development and the implementation of major national strategies. We should make clear whether water can be transferred, and put forward the regional list and total water demand that need to be transferred, according to the principles of real need, ecological safety and sustainability, on the premise of sufficient water conservation in the transfer area, and guided by rigid and reasonable water demand to ensure the high-quality social and economic development. We should make clear where to transfer water, put forward a list of rivers with water transfer potential and transferable water volume based on the implementation of major national strategies and actual conditions of economic and social development and water resources of river basins and regions, enhance the organic connection with land and space planning, and scientifically plan the overall layout of the national water resources allocation project. We should make clear how to transfer water, deeply carry out the evaluation and impact assessment of water transfer projects, take into account priorities, technical and economic feasibility, comprehensive benefits of water transfer and other factors, and implement a number of significant water diversion projects.
Fifth, managing water in a coordinated way. To build happy rivers and lakes can be regarded as systematic engineering, which must be taken into consideration comprehensively and implemented systematically. We should coordinate the "basin of water" and "water in the basin", make every endeavor to promote the transition from "promises stay in words " to "concrete actions" for implementing river and lake chief system, strengthen control and protection of water bodies and shoreline spaces, strictly regulate water activities such as sand mining, and resolutely rectify behavior encroaching and destroying rivers and lakes. We will work together to promote the comprehensive management of mountains, rivers, forests, lakes, grasses and sands, increase efforts in water and soil erosion control and water ecological protection and restoration, and further promote the overall management of groundwater over-exploitation in North China, in order to restore the damaged ecology. We should make an overall plan to eliminate water disasters and promote water conservancy. On the one hand, we should speed up the implementation of the flood control and drought relief improvement projects, focus on the two major risks related to extraordinary flood and reservoir safety, take right and practical management measures, and do a good job in flood and drought disaster prevention. On the other hand, we should give full play to the comprehensive benefits of water projects, accelerate the improvement of the urban and rural water supply guarantee system, and comprehensively solve the problem of drinking water safety of registered poor people in a timely manner. We should effectively coordinate industrial and social forces, enhance the progress of water culture, increase social publicity, give full play to the role of the "12314" water supervision and service platform, and gather the strong power of saving water, loving water and protecting water in the whole of society.