China: Innovative Water Resource Conservation Measures in the North China Plain (#348)
The North China Plain is one of the most densely populated regions in the world, encompassing the capital Beijing. The soil here is fertile, but water scarcity is a growing problem. In many areas, increasing agricultural demands can no longer be met by adding hydraulic infrastructure, and groundwater is over exploited. Water supplies to agriculture are under stress from competing demands for other uses. The problem of water scarcity is compounded by worsening water pollution from heavy industrialization and rapid urban population growth.
The North China Plain Water Conservation Project financed by the World Bank (74 mill. USD) aimed to enhance beneficial use of water resources, agriculture production capacity, and farmer incomes. The project had four components:
- irrigation and drainage works and on-farm systems, including canal lining, low pressure pipes, drains, wells, surface irrigation improvements, sprinklers, and micro irrigation systems,
- agriculture support and services, including land leveling, non-tillage in the dry season, deep plowing in the rainy season, soil fertility improvements, organic and plastic mulching, cropping pattern adjustments, seed improvements, balanced fertilization and improvements to planting and cultivation techniques,
- forestry and environmental monitoring of the project’s impact on soil and water, and;
- institutional development and capacity building for water and soil conservation.
The sets of integrated water saving measures, including improvements in irrigation infrastructure, contributed to water savings while increasing agricultural yields and incomes. Among the project’s contributions are:
- Increased water productivity and reduced consumptive use. The value of agricultural production per unit of water consumed increased in the range of 60-80%, agricultural production tripled and farmer per capita incomes increased between 10-500%.
- More sustainable groundwater use. Groundwater depletion was reduced to negligible levels or eliminated.
- Strengthened institutions arrangements for irrigation system operation and maintenance. The original project target was 100 water user associations (WUA), but more than 500 were established. For the first time on this scale in China, WUAs assumed responsibility for both financing and operating irrigation systems.
- Water charges. Volumetric water charges were initiated.
Importance for IWRM
- Development of WUAs. The success of the WUAs stemmed for two principles: a) democratic self-organized associations based on hydraulic boundaries, and b) water measuring with corresponding water charges on a volumetric basis. Important factor was also inclusion of farmers form the beginning in the project, and the active support of both the Ministry of Water Resources and local governments.
- Importance of economic incentives. Approaches to water savings in agriculture are more likely to succeed if appropriate incentives are given to farmers to modify their practices.
- Monitoring and evaluation for technical innovations. An appropriate monitoring and evaluation system is necessary to verify efficiency of integrated water saving measures in agriculture, and to share the information with WUAs.
Adapted from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWAT/Resources/4602114-1203518899290/China_IV.pdf; The World Bank Project P056516 (2001 – 2006).
More information: China North Plain Water Conservation Project, Implementation Completion and Results Report, World Bank, 2007