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REVIEW ON WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT IN THE YELLOW RIVER BASIN

Liu Ke 1,2 , Xu Zongxue 2, and Ramasamy Jayakumar 1

1 Natural Sciences Sector, UNESCO Beijing Office, Beijing, 100600, China 2 College of Water Science, Beijing Normal University, Key Laboratory for Water and Sediment Sciences, Ministry of Education, Beijing, 100875, China

ABSTRACT

As is often called the mother river of China, the Yellow River, with a catchment area of 795,000 km2, accommodates 12% of the Chinese population. It flows across nine provinces in the arid and semi-arid areas of China. In recent years, the basin has experienced accelerated economic development, led by factors such as industrialization and urbanization. Nevertheless, as being celebrated as reasons for economic success, urbanization, industrialization, have brought challenges to water resources in the Yellow River Basin from both quantity and quality perspectives. The amount of untreated industrial sewage dumped in the Yellow River has been doubled since the 1980‘s to 4.2 billion m 3 per year, consequently, only 60% of the river course is fit for drinking purposes. Moreover, climate variabilities increased probabilities of extreme event such as droughts and floods. Plus, it has brought a general trend of reduction in terms of water provision in the basin. For instance, multi-year average runoff in the Yellow River has been reduced by 8% from 1956 to 2000, while average yearly temperature has been increased by 0.6 Celsius in the same period. Contrary to the reduced water supply, demands for water have been increasing from 10 billion m 3 in 1949 to 37.5 billion m 3 in 2006. All such challenges call for sustainable water resources management, as one of the solutions to balance the dwindled water supply with increased demands, and ensure water security and sustainability in the Yellow River basin. This paper is aimed to investigate water resources management in the Yellow River basin, examining its development course, current regime, identify the gaps and provide improvement recommendations.

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INTRODUCTION

Water resources management in the Yellow River basin has been a hot topic. Consequences of the management are often catalyst for development, or trigger of disastrous effects. Since its foundation in 1949, Government of the People‘s Republic of China has paid consistent efforts to management of the Yellow River basin. Several phases have emerged through the long course of management with various focuses on flood control and prevention, ensuring access to free water, water allocation among the riparian provinces, and endeavors for sustainable river basin management. In general, water resources management in the Yellow River basin has been successful. Infrastructure such as dams and dikes has been extensively built, and the river flow has been well monitored across the entire basin. As a result, flood risks have been significantly reduced with access to safe and clean water improved. Moreover, through a basin-scaled water allocation mechanism, firstly set up in 1987 and subsequently refined in 1998, the problem of river interruption has been effectively addressed. After the 226-day interruption emerged in 1997, the Yellow River maintains its flows to the sea afterwards even through severe drought years such as 2000. Given the success achieved, it needs to be recognized that there are still points that need to be tackled if water management in the Yellow River basin would continue to grow to the sustainability direction. In this background, this paper first gives a review on the development of policies and plans for water resources management in the Yellow River basin, from foundation of the People‘s Republic of China to the time being. It presents different focuses of the management regime in different phases, and elaborates their reasons behind. Afterwards, the paper analyzes problems that need to be addressed in the current management modality, including fragmented authoritarianism, low efficiencies of water consumption, inflexibilities in terms of water allocation between the wet and dry years, along with the hardship that hinders basin scaled water pollution control and prevention. Based on the analysis, several recommendations are given in the final part as ways to improve sustainable water resources management in the Yellow River basin. Due to time and data constraints, investigation in this paper is only focused on management of surface water in the Yellow River basin. Management of groundwater is not discussed but needs to be recognized as an important component for the strengthening of sustainable water resources management in the Yellow River basin. In addition, timeframe of this investigation starts from foundation of the People‘s Republic of China in 1949.

BACKGROUND

Yellow River, the second largest river in China, originates from the Tibetan plateau, wanders through nine provinces in the arid and semi-arid northern part of China. It passes the loess plateau, the China northern plains and flows into the Bo Hai sea. The main course of the river is about 5,000 km far and creates a discharge area of 753,000 km 2 . About 100 million people live in the Yellow River Basin, which counts for 12% of the Chinese population.

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Figure 1. Yellow River basin and its location in China.

Table 1. Natural Runoff Fluctuations of Yellow River from 1997 to 2006 (unit: in 10 8 m 3 )

Year

1997

1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

Annual

378.8

447.97

452.18

349.87

323.33

300.30

575.42

396.70

555.47

400.41

runoff

Data source: the Yellow River Conservancy Commission.

runoff Data source: the Yellow River Conservancy Commission. Figure 2. Correlation between precipitation and runoff in

Figure 2. Correlation between precipitation and runoff in the Yellow River basin.

The multi-year average annual runoff in the yellow river is about 58,000 million cubic meters, counting for 2% of the total natural river runoff in China. In history, inter-year fluctuations of the runoff have been often, and the 1990‘s witnessed those relatively drastic. In 1997, 226 days of none flow emerged, and the Yellow River failed to reach the sea. (Ma,

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2004). Runoff fluctuations have seriously threatened water security and sustainability in the Yellow River basin. In addition to runoff fluctuations, climate change has begun to take effect in the Yellow River basin. From 1961 to 2000, temperature in the Yellow River basin has been increased by 0.6 C (Qiu, 2007), and the amount of precipitation has been reduced in the same period. But the reduction varied between the upstream, mid-stream and downstream areas (YRCC, 2008). It is estimated that runoff in the Yellow River basin has been decreased from 58,000 million m 3 to 53,200 million m 3 , which is a reduction of almost 8% from 1956 to 2000 (YRCC, 2008). Moreover, due to increment of irrigation areas in the past four decades, actual amount of evaporation has been increased in the Yellow River basin (LIU, 2004; XU2005), exerting another cut to the availability of surface water resources. The reduction of runoff led to reduced amount of water provision. Nevertheless, in contrary to the dwindled supply, water demands have been increasing due to industrial and agricultural development, along with accelerated urbanization in the Yellow River basin. When it comes to 2000, 26.4% of the basin has become urbanized and an industrialization process is underway in the vast rural areas. Both have led to increased demands for water (Chen et al, 1997). In addition to challenges derived from the quantity side, agricultural and industrial development, coupled with enhanced amount of domestic water consumption, has given rise to significant amount of water pollution. This has posed another challenge from the quality perspective, and reduced again freshwater availability. (Chen and others 2000; Wang and Ongley 2004). For instance, due to water pollution, only about 60% of the river course is fit for drinking purposes. (WWDR III, 2009). In the past 50 years, human demands for water are likely to be the most important driver for challenges of water resources in the basin. (Yang et al 2004; Chen et al 1997). Due to increased effects of human activities, freshwater discharged into the Yellow River has been decreased by 72% between 1960s and 1990s (LIU et al, 2002). To maintain the health and sustainable development of a riparian ecosystem, water management in the Yellow River basin, at the same time of meet the human demands, can not ignore requests of environmental flow demanded by the river itself. Environmental Flow Requirement (EFR) is defined by King as the amount of water that is purposefully left in an aquatic ecosystem to maintain its direct and indirect use values (King et al, 2003). Nevertheless, based on relevant investigations, water extracted from the Yellow River for human uses had reached 53% of its multi-year average runoff (Tang, 2004). This figure could have been risen already given population growth, industrial, agricultural development, and urbanization taken place after 2004. The percentage indicates more than half of the Yellow River runoff has been used to satisfy human demands, while leaving increasingly less for the health and sustainability of the Yellow River. When the dwindled water supply is faced with increasing demands derived from industrial and agricultural development, urbanization, along with the ecological requirements, sustainable water resources management is needed, more than ever, to tip balance between the supply and demand sides, supporting sustainable development of the basin, while maintaining the river in its healthy status.

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DEVELOPMENT OF WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT IN THE YELLOW RIVER BASIN

After foundation of the People‘s Republic of China, water resources management in the Yellow River evolves through three phases, from 1950s to 1970s, from 1988 to 1997, and from 1998 to present. Different focuses could be found in the three phases. In the first phase, major focus is the prevention and reduction of flood risks, provision of irrigation facilities and hydro-power exploitation. Extensive infrastructure construction has been conducted in this period, and it remains to be a focus of the Chinese government in its policies and plans for water resources management. Since 1950‘s, there have been investments of more than 100 billion US dollars in infrastructure construction, leading to the built of extensive networks of dams, dikes, and water provision facilities in the Yellow River basin. (Wang, 2000) Principle that guides water resources management in this period is ―free water for all(Shao et al, 2009; Zhang and Ma, 2008). Water resource management in this period has successfully ensured equal access to water resources. Nevertheless, although equity is well addressed, the factor of efficiency has not been duly considered. Such deficiency has given rise to inefficient water consumption afterwards. Focus of water resources management in the Yellow River basin began to change since 1970s. River interruption taken place in 1972, which aroused wide spread attention on the Yellow River, accelerated the change. To tackle the interruption, in 1987, the Water Resources Allocation Plan of the Yellow Riverwas released by the central government. The plan was often referred as the 1987 Water Allocation Planafterwards. It stipulated specific amount of water allocated from main trunk of the Yellow River to each of the nine provinces the river flows through.

Table 2. Amount of water allocated to the nine provinces along the Yellow River according to the 1987 Water Allocation Plan (unit:10 8 m 3 )

Provinces

Amount of water withdrawn allocated

Percentage of the total basin runoff

Qinghai

14.1

3.81

Sichuan

0.4

0.11

Gansu

30.4

8.22

Ningxia

40.00

10.81

Inner Mongolia

58.60

15.84

Shaanxi

38.00

10.27

Shanxi

43.10

11.65

Henan

55.40

14.97

Shandong

70.00

18.92

Hebei

20.00

5.41

Data source: (Zhang and Ma, 2008).

In total, the 1987 plan has allocated 37,000 million m 3 from annual runoff of the Yellow River. The initial amount of water allocated to each of the provinces is calculated based on an evaluation of provincial macro agricultural and industrial development status, along with

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amount of domestic water consumption (Peng and Hu, 2006). In addition, the plan has left 21,000 million m 3 water to maintain sustainability of the Yellow River ecosystem. Nevertheless, it needs to be recognized that quotas given in the 1987 plan was based on macro multi-year average value, which is not always in accordant with the actual situation of local water demands. (Zhang and Ma, 2008). Moreover, the quota is not always strictly monitored, nor has it been exactly abided by the provinces. In realities, extra amount of water are often taken from the main trunk by water diversion projects set up by provinces individually (Peng and Hu, 2006). This has led to a scenario of upstream priority‖. Upstream provinces are endowed with natural priorities in taking and utilizing water at their best capacity, leaving water of less amount or lower quality to downstream provinces. Unfortunately, it is the downstream provinces, such as Shandong, Hebei, Shanxi, and Henan that have been going through the largest scaled agricultural, industrial development, and urbanization processes in the basin. As a result, the gap between water supply and demands began to be ever more manifest in the downstream provinces. To solve the problem, the downstream provinces often resort to groundwater as complementary solution. But this has led to problems including groundwater depletion and pollution, land subsidence and seawater intrusion. For instance, depth of shallow groundwater in western part of the China Northern plain, covering the Hebei and Henan provinces, has been declined from 3 to 4 meters in 1950s to 20 meters in 1980s and to 30 meters in 1990s. (Liu and Xia, 2004). The drawbacks of the 1987 water allocation plancall for another turn of change. A 226-day flow interruption emerged in 1997 alarmed the problem. As a result, starting from 1998, an adjusted annual operational plan for water allocation was given by the central government, and the Yellow River Conservancy Commission (YRCC) was appointed as leading agency to coordinate and monitor its implementation. The new water allocation plan adjusted quota given in the 1987 allocation plan, in reference to the actual amount of water consumption for the nine provinces from 1988 to 1996. This has turned quota given in the 1998 plan more relevant to local water demands. In addition to inter-year adjustment, the new plan has also considered inner-year variations of water demands. (Wang et al 2007). Also in this period, YRCC was conferred with enhanced financial and technical resources. Its capacity for coordinating and monitoring implementation of the plan has been significantly improved. As a result, drying up of the Yellow River has been much alleviated. The river has kept continuous flow to the sea after 1998 even in drought years such as 2000. Also starting from 1998, more researches have been carried out to understand hydrological processes in the Yellow River basin including studies on linear programming (Devi et al, 2005) dynamic programming (Shangguan et al 2002), stochastic process (Maqsood et al 2005) priority-based maximal multi-period network flow (Wang et al 2007), and various of decision support systems for water supply, flood risk management and prevention (Xu et al 1998). Recommendations given by some of the studies have been adopted in the water resources management of the Yellow River (Feng et al 2007; Xu et al 2003). However, hydrological processes and physical characteristics of the Yellow River, particularly in the context of climate variabiltiies, are far from thoroughly understood (Liu and Xia 2004). Moreover, much less attention has been paid on policy dimension of water problems in the Yellow River basin. Few investigations have been made about how people, groups and institutions contribute to and are affected by water resources issues, and how theyve responded to such changes in the Yellow River basin (Barnett et al 2006).

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ANALYSIS: PENDING ON WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT IN THE YELLOW RIVER BASIN

Water problems in the Yellow River basin are microcosm of the world‘s water problem. Measures, experiences, and lessons learnt to tackle the problems would be relevant to other places. For the time being, as was identified below, there are several challenges for sustainable water resources management in the Yellow River basin. It needs to be recognized that solutions to the problems, along with growth of water resources management in the Yellow River basin is embedded in strategic choices of the future Chinese development trajectories.

Fragmented

Authoritarianism

Hinders

Sustainable

Water

Resources

Management

There are many actors involved in water resources management in China. This includes Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) that manages water from the quantity side. In the Yellow River basin, MWR delegates its authorities to the Yellow River Conservancy Commission (YRCC), and subsequently to irrigation districts and Provincial Water Resources Bureaus (Lohmar et al, 2003). At the sub-provincial levels, there are insubordinate water management stations set up on the prefecture, county and township levels, and water management committees set on the lowest village level. (Nyberg and Rozelle 1999). Starting from MWR on the top to water management committees on the village level, the vertical hierarchy constitutes what is often called ―tiao‖ in the Chinese practices of authoritarianism. It is in this hierarchy the operational plans were mainly implemented and monitored by YRCC along with agencies on insubordinate levels. It needs to be noticed that only quantity allocation for surface water falls in this vertical hierarchy. Policies and plans for other aspects, such as water pollution prevention and control, groundwater management and utilization, are put in other vertical hierarchies (tiaos) led by other ministries. For instance, authorities for groundwater management and utilization are led by the Ministry of Land and Resources (MLR), and those for water pollution control and prevention are led by Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP). These ministries in turn delegate their authorities to insubordinate agencies in the Yellow River basin, which are separate to the hierarchy that YRCC belongs to. In total, there are nine of such paralleled ―vertical hierarchies extended in the Yellow River basin. Their leading ministries and respective authorities are illustrated in the table below. To improve sustainable water resources management, it is important to promote coordination of the authorities and agencies involved in the different ―tiao‖s. Unfortunately, such coordination is hard to take place. (Lohmar 2003; UNDP 2002; Varis and Vakkilainen 2001; Wang 2003). In addition, even in the same hierarchy, cooperation is not easy between insubordinate agencies of different provinces, prefectures and counties. For instance, activities such as data sharing, joint design and monitor for pollution control are not frequent between environmental protection bureaus between different provinces. Compared to the vertical tiaos, authorities division between entities on the horizontal administrative levels is referred as kuangin Chinese. The ―tiao‖s and ―kuang‖s constitute dichotomy of power and

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authorities in water resources management in the Yellow River basin, which has constituted a system of fragmented authoritarianism in the management regime (Lieberthal 1992).

Table 3. Ministries involved in water resources management

Ministry of Water Resources

Management and plan of water quantities, issue water permits, propose reformative measures for water price

Ministry of Land and Resources

Management of groundwater utilization

Ministry of Environmental Protection

Implement laws and regulations related to water pollution control and prevention, monitor water quality, propose plans for water pollution control and reduction in major rivers and lakes

Ministry of Agriculture

Management of water in rural areas, and agriculture sector, control non- point pollution derived from the rural side

Ministry of Housing, Urban-Rural Development

Management of water provision in cities, control and treatment of urban water pollution

National Development and Reform Commission

Set the rate of water pollution charges, set the rate of water price, set sectoral policies and plans for water pollution control and prevention

State Forestry

Protect and manage water resources in the forests

Administration

Ministry of Finance

Management of water pollution charges collected, set the rate of water resources fees

Ministry of

Prevent and reduce water pollution derived from marine transportation

Transportation

The fragmented authoritarianism has turned into an obstacle for sustainable water resources management in the Yellow River basin. It divides management authorities for aspects that need to be integrated. Moreover, the fragmented authoritarianism restricts authorities of YRCC, so is water resources management that it is leading, only in the field of quantity management.

Water Pollution Calls for Basin Scaled Planning and Management

In recent years, amount of pollutants discharged into the Yellow River has been increased from 2 billion ton per year in the 1980s to more than 4 billion ton per year in 2005. Measured by the Chinese water quality standards, nearly 40% of water in the Yellow River was chartered category V or worse category V, which means the water is almost with no beneficial functions. As a result, the Yellow River has been the third most polluted river in China. The serious water pollution is threatening sustainability of the Yellow River, and the well beings of people living along the river. To tackle the challenge, water resources management in the Yellow River basin needs to go beyond its current limits and include an integrated basin-scaled plan to control and prevent water pollution. However, the fragmented authoritarianism with its inherent vertical and horizontal hierarchies, (the tiao and the kuangs) is hindering the process. YRCC, as the leading agency for water resources management in the Yellow River basin, belongs to the

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tiaoled by Ministry of Water Resources. Meanwhile, authorities for water pollution control and prevention lies in the tiaoled by Ministry of Environmental Protection. Given this dichotomy, cooperation between Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Environmental Protection is needed if a pollution control and prevention plan would be incorporated into water resources management. Nevertheless, even if importance of such cooperation has been long advocated, it remains a process of twists and turns. In addition to difficulties of inter-Ministry cooperation, cooperation for water pollution control and prevention between upstream and downstream provinces has been difficult as well. This is often embodied as less communication, and deficiency of mutual accountability between upstream, midstream and downstream provinces. The scenario has given rise to trans-jurisdictional pollution of enhanced frequency and magnitude in the basin. A case in point is the pollution incident of the Wanjiazhai Reservoir in 1999 where pollutants flown from upstream Inner-Mongolia prefecture and the Shaanxi province enter the reservoir, threaten drinking water source of Taiyuan, capital of the downstream Shanxi province- a city of more than 4 million people. (Wang and Ongley, 2004) To realize sustainable water resources management in the Yellow River basin, water pollution is the challenge that has to be dealt with. However, the current governance structure with its inherent fragmented authoritarianism makes it hard to incorporate a basin-scaled pollution prevention and control plan in water resources management. Reform and innovations are in high need.

Low Efficiency of Water Consumption Calls for Improvement of Water Saving Incentives and Actions

From a quantity perspective, water resources management in the Yellow River basin has helped improve water allocation among the riparian provinces. Nevertheless, the management regime achieved relatively less in regard to efficiency. For instance, there are investigations indicating water efficiencies for agriculture sector in the Yellow River basin is as low as 50%, or even lower as 40% (Wang et al, 2005; Fang, 2000). Similar low value could also be found in the industrial sector and among the urban water users. To generate products of $ 1,000 value, it needs 240 to 400 m 3 of water in the Yellow River basin. This figure is much higher than the national average level of 140 m 3 , and is 7 times more than the average level of developed nations. Moreover, in cities of the Yellow River basin, water recycling rate is between 20 to 30 percent. This means a large part of water withdrawn for urban domestic consumption would not be reused but dumped into the river after their first round utilization, leading to pollution that restricts availability of freshwater. Given the low efficiency value, water resources management needs to give measures helping improve incentives for water saving actions. There have been researches giving a number of choices in this regard. For instance, Dovers gave a list of 13 instruments for incentive promotion including education and training, consultation, meditation and negotiations, agreement and conventions, regulation by the state, self-regulation by users, community involvement in the management, removal of adjustment of distorting policies (Dovers, 1995). Despite the diverse choices, the Chinese policymakers, especially those on the higher-level, are prone to market based measures, particularly, rising water prices.

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(Rosegrant and Cai, 2002). Similarly, among recent researches addressing water efficiency improvement, much weight has been given to reforms of water pricing and the creation of a water market, particularly for agriculture sector. (Liu and Zhang 2002; Lohmar et al 2003; UNDP 2002; Yang et al 2003; Zhen and Routray 2002). In one hand, it needs to be admitted that water price in the Yellow River remains low indeed. Price for water consumed by the industrial sector is 0.039 yuan/m 3 , and that for agricultural sector is even lower at 0.01 yuan/m 3 . As a result of heavy government subsidies, such low price level could not reflect the full cost for collecting and transporting water from the Yellow River to agricultural fields and factories. The low water price has given rise to a series of problems, including budget constraints to introduce advance water-saving technologies, limited funds to operate and maintain water provision networks. More importantly, it has dampened incentives of water saving, because people tend not to save water to their best if it costs only a small part of their budget. From this perspective, it is useful to rise water price in the Yellow River basin as means to improve efficiency. Nevertheless, given the complex implications of water, specifically those in social regards, repercussions that the rising may incur need to be well considered. For instance, faced with increased water price, the slow-paying small-scaled farming households may not be able to ensure their access to sufficient water, while the large-scaled farming enterprises may receive more than they need because of their sufficient funding. (Wang et al, 2005) In this context, at the same time of admitting the positive role of water price rising in regard to efficiency improvement, its other impacts need to be considered as well. Setting different percentage of increase for different users could be considered, based on the users‘ tolerance to price rising. Moreover, rising of water price, as only one kind of the incentive improveement measures, could be combined with others during application.

Flexibilities Need to Be Improved for Water Allocation between Wet and Dry Years

In addition to adjusted quota of water allocation, the 1998 operational plan stipulated increment and reduction of the allocation in response to runoff fluctuations. It is based on reasonable considerations but faced with challenges of implementation because the plan gave same amount of increment and reduction for provinces and sectors during the drought and wet years. It is easier to operate when the same amount of increment is applied in wet years, however, it would be hard to act if all the provinces and sectors are faced with the same amount of reduction during the drought years. This is because their tolerance to water scarcity tends to be different. Table 4 illustrates the actual maximum and minimum amount of water consumed by eight of the nine provinces from 1988 to 2006, along with variations from quota given in the ―1987 water allocation plan‖. In the investigation of Shao and others, the minimum amount of water supply in a dry year to the normal amount of water requirement is defined as the flexible water use limit to water shortage. Reduction of water supply during the dry years could not exceed the limit, otherwise, water security would be threatened. (Shao et al, 2009). Given the 1987 quotas as water requirement in normal years, from table 3, it could be found that flexible water use limit to water shortage is 70% for Qinhai and Shandong

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province, 58% for Gansu province, 76% for Ningxia province, almost 90% for Inner- Mongolia prefecture and 50% for Shaanxi and Henan province. In this context, amount of water reduction for the provinces in dry years needs to be adjusted in reference to the flexible water use limit.

Table 4. Actual water consumption of provinces along the Yellow Rive (10 8 m 3 )

Provinces

Qinghai

Gansu

Ningxia

Inner-

Shanxi

Shaanxi

Hennan

Shandong

Mongolia

Allocation

14.1

30.4

40.0

58.6

43.1

38.0

55.4

70.0

quota in

1987

Maximum

15.9

30.05

42.5

71.55

14.4

26.84

50.82

134.8

water

consumption

Minimum

9.83

17.56

30.37

50.46

9.04

17.30

26.07

49.57

water

consumption

Mean of

12.01

25.90

36.88

62.22

11.24

21.84

33.98

77.45

actual water

consumption

Variation of the actual water consumption from 1988 to

2006

69.7~

57.8~

75.9~

86.1~

21.0~3

45.5~70

47.1~

70.8~

112.8

98.8

106.3

122.1

3.4

.6

91.7

192.6

compared to the quota in

1987(%)

Similar flexible water use limit has also been calculated for agriculture, industrial and domestic water users in the Yellow River basin. Flexible water use limit for agriculture, industrial, domestic urban and rural users are 90%, 50%, 85% and 75% respectively. (Shao et al, 2009) The agriculture sector is of the least flexibility. This means room of water cut for agriculture in dry years could not exceed 10% of what it needs in normal years. On the contrary, the industrial sector is most flexible due to advanced techniques the sector might adopt to deal with water scarcity. The flexible water use limit needs to be noticed by water resources management in the Yellow River Basin. It could be used as a good way to improve adaptation of water resources to enhanced runoff fluctuations given rise by climate variabilities.

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SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

In view of the previous analysis, it could be found that after its evolution for three phases since 1970s, water resources management in the Yellow River basin has stayed largely in quantity management. By devising allocation plans between provinces, it has been useful to help the reconnection of Yellow River with the sea. Nevertheless, to realize sustainable water resources management, the current regime still needs to be strengthened in several regards including reform and innovation of governance structure, selection of appropriate instruments for incentive promotion, and enhanced flexibilities to cope with challenges such as climate variabilities.

Reform and Innovation of Governance Structure

There have been many studies giving reform of governance structure in the Yellow River basin as a critical way to deal with the basins problems (Economy, 2004; Wang and Ongley 2004; UNDP 2002). Barnett and others explain governance as the mechanism through which people and groups express their concerns, and ensure fulfillment of their rights. (Barnett et al 2006). From this perspective, governance includes not only what the government does, but also entails people and their regular practices, rules, laws and behavioral norms, all of which are influenced by institutions. Given the complexity of actors involved in the management of the Yellow River basin, the current governance structure could be considered to change into nested, cross scaled institutions in which responsibilities for policy design, implementation and monitoring rests upon the appropriate level. Folke and others refer such governance structure as ―nested system of governance‖(Folke 1998), and Ostrom refers to the same as polycentric governance system(Ostrom 2001) To build such nested and polycentric system of governance in the Yellow River basin, there could be two entry points. The first is to set up a basin scaled management authority that is responsible for the design, implement and monitoring of basin scaled management policies. Its authorities would go beyond provincial borders, and across various vertical and horizontal hierarchies. Such management regime is helpful to integrate crucial aspects for sustainable water resources management from both quantity and quality perspectives. Given importance of water resources in the Yellow River basin, position and responsibilities of the basin management authority could be stipulated in the Chinese Water Law, and it could be accountable directly to the central government. Nevertheless, it needs to be pointed out that such type of reform has long been advocated, but actual progress remains minimal. Commitment of the central government could be one of the keys to make it happen. In addition to setup a brand new basin scaled management authority, it needs to be recognized that there have been a number of stakeholders in the Yellow River basin. Often, they hold different perceptions to water problems in the basin, to which water resources management needs to address. In this connections, before taking any reformative measures, a fundamental question that needs to be answered first is “what are the problems?” in the eyes and interests of the stakeholders. m. To find answers, analysis about stakeholdersperceptions is a starting point. Nevertheless, for the time being, it has not been fully developed. The absence may turn any intended reforms irrelevance or even unacceptable during implementation. In this circumstance, measures such as public hearings and stakeholder

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consultancy meetings are needed. These are important to find a clear target first before any governance reforms take place.

Selection of Appropriate Instruments

In view of the low efficiencies, it is reasonable to consider instruments that would promote incentives leading to water saving actions. Selection of instruments is often based on biases of agencies and advocates, and would consider factors such as equity, efficiency, political and institutional feasibilities. (Dovers, Gullett, 1999) In light of this, an inclusive evaluation that considers not only efficiency but also equity needs to be applied when policy instruments are selected. Given its effective role in efficiency promotion, price rising could be one of but not the only choice. Moreover, to address equity, the percentage of price rising needs be tuned with different situations of various water users. Among the water price rising taken place in several Chinese cities, a gradual rather than abrupt approach has been applied. Different increasing percentage is applied to different sectors. For instance, in the water price rising of Beijing in 2009, domestic water price rose by 0.3 yuan/per m 3 , while the figure for non-domestic consumption is 0.4 yuan/per m 3 . Water price for hotel, business and entertainment centers has seen the highest increase from 61.5 yuan/per m 3 to 81.68 yuan/per m 3 , rising by 32%. The differentiated price rising has worked to promote water saving among the large scaled water users, while maintain the price within acceptable range of individual households. Lessons and experiences learnt could be well referred for water resources management in the Yellow River basin. In addition to price rising, capacity building, education and awareness rising could also be effective to improve motives and lead to self-initiated water saving activities among the general public. Nevertheless, capacity building programs, educational and training activities held in the Yellow River basin are often with short-term duration, and cover limited participants.

Enhanced Flexibilities for Water Allocation

The 1998 operational plan stipulates the same amount of increment and reduction of water between wet and dry years. This may hinder its implementation as tolerance of different sectors and provinces to water scarcity is different in the Yellow River basin, particularly during the dry years. Flexibilities are thus recommended to adjust amount of the increment and reduction in reference to water use limits of the sectors and provinces. Flexibilities are needed as well when calculating the quota of water allocation For the time being, this figure is largely summed up from requests reported from the provinces, which is derived from a ―water order system‖. Given an irrigation district for example, its water demands are added up from the ―water orders‖ received from insubordinate water management committees, individual farming households. The district water management authority would then total the individual orders and send the summed up amount to water management bureaus on the province level. Before the orders are sent to their upper levels, water management authorities on any levels require submission of water orders at least three days in advance from its immediate insubordinate level. Those who changed the amount ordered would have to pay 20% penalties based on the instant water price and amount

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ordered. Such arrangement often left water users on the lowest level less time to tune amount of the order with their actual needs. Moreover, the penalties generate unwillingness to refine the ordered amount, even if it is in great odds to actual demands. As a result, water requests reported from the nine provinces do not always meet the actual needs, and thus affects accuracy of the annual water allocation quota. In this context, flexibilities are needed to refine water allocation not only between the wet and dry years, but also for its calculation. It could be particularly relevant given climate variablities have turned runoff and precipitation increasingly unpredictable. Finally, as climate change is taking effects in the Yellow River basin, a basin-scaled assessment is necessary to investigate vulnerabilities of water resources to climate change, and provide accordant recommendations for adaptation. This assessment would address water resources and their implications for industrial and agriculture development, urbanization and the requests for ecological flows. In addition, impacts of climate change and population growth on the availability of freshwater would also be considered.

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