China: Improving Water Resource Management & Pollution Control in the Hai Basin
[ 2013-05-02 ]



The Hai Basin Integrated Water and Environment Management Project, 2004-2011, effectively promoted an integrated approach to water resource management and pollution control in the Hai Basin in northern China. The project contributed to the restoration and protection of the marine environment, ecosystem and biodiversity of the Bohai Sea. Over 20 million people benefited from reduced water pollution.


The Hai Basin spreads over six provinces and the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin, which account for 15 percent of China¡¯s gross domestic product (GDP). The Hai Basin area suffered from serious water-related problems, including water pollution, water scarcity, diminishing water supplies and flooding. Water availability per capita in the Hai Basin was only 14 percent of the national average and about 4 percent of the global average. Over-exploitation of groundwater, overuse of surface water resulting in inadequate environmental flows, along with groundwater and surface water pollution, led to the decline and deterioration of water resources and damaged the freshwater and coastal environments of the Hai Basin. The Basin discharges into the Bohai Sea, which is an important ecosystem and fishery resource. However, heavy land-based pollution from urban, industrial, agricultural, and other sources in the Hai Basin, combined with overfishing, reduction of freshwater inflows, and habitat loss, threatened the fishery and steadily diminished many of the Bohai Sea¡¯s ecological functions.

To address these problems in the Hai Basin and the connected Bohai Sea ecosystem, the World Bank helped the Chinese Government develop and implement an integrated approach to water and environmental management. Integrated water and environment management planning was a key management measure promoted by the project. This integrated planning provided the context for the development of practical approaches to carry out top-down, bottom-up, vertical and horizontal cooperation at the basin, sub-basin and county level to redress land-based activities that degrade marine waters. An innovative approach that was introduced by the project is evapotranspiration (ET) management, which seeks to achieve real water savings to eliminate groundwater overdraft and provide more surface water for ecological purposes and as outflow to the Bohai Sea. Remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS) techniques were used to develop Basin-level ET reduction plans.


Between 2004 and 2011, the project achieved the following results:

  • More than 20 million residents living in the project area benefited from reduced water pollution, including elimination of odors, as well as ameliorated aesthetic and recreational conditions.
  • In the longer term, benefits would also accrue to fishers and people fringing the Bohai Sea through improved water quality, fishery stocks and biodiversity.
  • Annual wastewater discharge in the 16 project counties in 2010 was 129.34 million tons less than that in 2004; chemical oxygen demand (COD) and ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) discharge was 69,758 tons and 7,488 tons less.
  • Total amount of over-exploited shallow groundwater for agricultural irrigation in the 16 project counties in 2010 was 63.2 percent less than that in 2004; deep groundwater exploitation was down by 46 percent.
  • Reduced  evapotranspiration (ET) value in 2010 in the 16 project counties by 54 mm from the 2004 level.
  • A new wastewater treatment plant built in Tianjin and financial incentives for wastewater treatment put in place.
  • Clearing of key pollutants in the Dagu Canal in the Hai Basin totaling 6.26 million m3 of pollutant sediment, 28,670 tons of oil, 1,820 tons of zinc, and 13,378 tons of total nitrogen.
  • Over 400 water users associations were established so that the communities decided themselves on how they manage water resources, particularly on water savings and operation and maintenance of the on-farm water systems.