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Pilot Project of Groundwater Overexploitation Control in the North China

IWRA World Water Congress 2017 - Cancun Mexico
3. Water security in a changing world

Keyword(s): groundwater, overexploitation control, China
Article: Oral:


Theme: 3. Water security in a changing world

(a) the purpose or thesis of the project; 

To control groundwater overexploitation in Hebei province, and explore measures and experiences that can extend to other regions, to increase groundwater management capacity, to achieve sustainable utilization of water resources and support continuous growth of economy.

b) Summary of the problem addressed

Since 1970s, China, especially the north region, started to intensively pump groundwater as water supply for agriculture irrigation, industry development and city expansion. To meet water demand for rapid growth of economy, groundwater is continuously and disorderly exploited to great extend for long time in some regions in China, plus faulty operation and management, as well as insufficient emphasis on protection,  severe problems of groundwater over exploitation and contamination have occurred. 

Hebei is one of China's provinces with the most serious groundwater over-exploitation problem, and is dependent on groundwater to a great extent. More than 90% of the province's plain areas is classified as groundwater overdraft area. The annual over- groundwater reaches 6 billion m3, accounting for more than 40% of the province's total water supply. Groundwater over-exploitation has caused the depletion of aquifers, land subsidence, ground fissures and seawater intrusion, etc.

In 2014, four ministries of China, including Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Water Resources, Ministry of Land and Resources and Ministry of Agriculture, jointly launched a pilot project of groundwater over-exploitation control in Hebei Province. By 2016, the Chinese government has invested more than 3.5 billion USD on this project and has achieved initial results. Annual reduction of groundwater overdraft in the pilot region caused by irrigation has reached 500 million m3, part of the groundwater level began to rise.

(C) Methodology

It is emphasized that groundwater over-exploitation control involves many aspects. Comprehensive approaches are needed. First, to build water conservancy projects to improve surface water supply capacity; second, to build efficient water-saving irrigation system; third, to adjust agricultural planting mode; fourth, to improve groundwater monitoring system; fifth, to improve groundwater management capacity, including clear water use right, water price reform.

(D) Summary of the conclusions

a) Groundwater over-exploitation control involves many fields, including water, land, agriculture, forest and Finance, etc.

b) Comprehensive measures are needed, and different measures have different adaptation conditions.

c) Better water right and water pricing system are crucial to groundwater overexploitation control and management. 

(E) Summary of the implications

The knowledge of increasing water use efficiency, enhancing conjunctive use of surface water and groundwater and building effective groundwater resources management system are helpful for other regions relying on groundwater and have groundwater overexploitation problem.

(F) Policy-science dimension

Groundwater utilization is crucial for food security and economy development, and is utilized by numerous individual farmers and other users in China. The following aspects are needed to be enhanced to effectively control groundwater use: 

a) Cooperation and coordination of different departments on water utilization and protection

b) Social awareness and education on sustainable utilization of water resources.

d) Clear and precise legislation system with strict implementation.

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