Change in water management in China has been going with the socioeconomic changes of the country in the past decade, including the change of river flows, water supply and demand, water quality, and management institutions. Water resources development has been supporting the blossom of the economy in China, but unfortunately the development ended with drying rivers and “closed” river basins, shrinking or disappearing lakes, depleted aquifers and degraded water and soil quality. Such unexpected changes have pushed a new round of policy and technology changes in China’s water management. During the period of 1950’s to 1970’s, water resources development followed a slogan of “human power over nature.” “Advancing with time” (yu-shi-zhu-jin), the slogan is now replaced by “human-nature harmony,” originating from the Taoism philosophy, recognizing the value of ecosystem restoration. Although large, centralized engineering projects are still under planning and construction, small-scale, distributed watershed management projects are taking a more important role. A transition from engineering-based water management to resource-based water management has been initialized with a wider focus on water as a distinct natural, human, and ecological resource. Moreover the institution formerly dominated by governmental administration is now changing to a combined government-market context. Nevertheless, China is facing several unique water management issues, such as extensive water pollution, rapidly growing urban water demand, drainage management in giant cities, constructing and managing large-scale water transfer projects and hydropower plants, large-scale soil conservation in Loess Plateau, etc. These outstanding issues call for further changes in water management institution and practices in the country. This talk discusses the ongoing and expected changes in water management in a changing China.
Professor Ximing Cai is the Colonel Harry F. and Frankie M. Lovell Endowed Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His current research areas include coupled human-natural system analysis with an emphasis on human interferences in hydrological processes, water-energy-food system modeling especially in dry areas, and sustainable water resources management particularly in developing countries.