2023-09-15 15:06:50 | Author：by CPC Leadership Group of the Ministry of Water Resources | Source：en.qstheory.cn2023-09-13
China’s national water network is based on natural rivers and lakes but includes water diversion and drainage works, which require adequate storage capacity and smart management. It is a comprehensive system that combines optimal water resource allocation, river basin flood prevention and disaster mitigation, and aquatic ecosystem protection functions. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) with Xi Jinping at its core has issued plans to accelerate the development of our national water network, including the construction of a modern, high-quality network of water conservancy infrastructure and concerted efforts to reduce flooding and improve water resources and aquatic environments and ecosystems. President Xi Jinping has taken a keen interest in China’s water network projects and stated that the development of the water network will constitute a century-long chronicle in the Chinese nation’s great history of achievements in water control and management over several millennia. On May 25, 2023, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council issued the Outline Plan for the Construction of the National Water Network, which represented a milestone in the development of water conservancy in China. Going forward, we must accelerate the development of the national water network to ensure water security for building a modern socialist country and advancing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
I. A sense of mission and responsibility regarding the national water network
Adopting a comprehensive, strategic view of China’s sustainable development, President Xi has personally planned and promoted the development of the national water network, including inspecting related projects on several occasions, giving important speeches, and issuing timely instructions. On May 14, 2021, President Xi presided over a meeting on the high-quality development of follow-up projects to the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, where he introduced plans to accelerate development of the national water network and set the objective of improving capabilities in all areas related to water security, including expediting the development of the main framework and major arteries of the national water network in order to ensure water security for building a modern socialist country. On April 26, 2022, he chaired the eleventh meeting of the Central Commission for Financial and Economic Affairs, where he suggested that the construction of network-based infrastructure, including for water resources, should be strengthened, with the focus on creating a well-connected network with strong links and on improving network efficiency. He also reiterated the requirement to accelerate the development of the main framework and major arteries of the national water network. On October 16, 2022, in the report of the 20th CPC National Congress, President Xi stated the need to build a modern infrastructure system with a better layout and structure, more effective functions, and greater system integration.
The vividly colored pools of the Yuncheng Salt Lake in Shanxi Province. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the Ministry of Water Resources has stepped up the protection and governance of water ecosystems, bringing about a fundamental improvement in the appearance of China’s rivers and lakes (drone photo). PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER XUE JUN
Accelerating the development of the national water network is essential for advancing Chinese modernization
China’s general hydrological conditions can be characterized as flood-prone in summer and drought-prone in winter, with scarce water resources in the north and abundant resources in the south, which produce temporal and spatial imbalances that are markedly at odds with our plans for the development and protection of territorial space and the distributions of population and economic development. The spatial carrying capacity of water resources affects the layout of socioeconomic development, so we need to advance water conservancy infrastructure construction with appropriate forward planning, strengthen the methodical allocation of water resources across river basins and regions, improve water regulation and supply capabilities, and balance population and the economy with water resources, in order to ensure robust water security for creating a new development dynamic and promoting Chinese modernization.
Accelerating the development of the national water network is essential for China’s security
China’s specific geographical and climatic conditions determine the frequent occurrence of floods and droughts across the country. As the effects of global climate change grow more acute, disasters such as floods and droughts are occurring more unexpectedly and have become more extreme, with more frequent record-breaking events. For example, on July 20, 2021, Zhengzhou registered the highest maximum hourly rainfall in the Chinese mainland since records began; from winter of 2021 into spring of 2022, the Pearl River Delta experienced its worst drought for more than six decades; flooding of the Beijiang River, a tributary of the Pearl River, in 2022 reached the highest level since 1915; and the Yangtze River Basin experienced its most severe drought, from a meteorological and hydrological perspective, for more than six decades in 2022. In response, we must coordinate development and security considerations, swiftly address weaknesses in our infrastructure, and leverage the advantages and comprehensive benefits of enormous water conservancy projects. We also need to do better at ensuring water security to safeguard the smooth, healthy, and safe functioning of the economy and society.
Accelerating the development of the national water network is required to promote ecological conservation
Since the 18th CPC National Congress held in 2012, under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee led by Xi Jinping, the Ministry of Water Resources has worked hard to protect and manage aquatic ecosystems and made fundamental improvements to China’s rivers and lakes. Nevertheless, water use by industry and the public still exceeds the carrying capacities in some areas, causing issues in aquatic ecosystems including water pollution, the drying up of rivers and lakes, diminishing wetlands, and over-extraction of groundwater. Severe challenges remain in the conservation of rivers and lakes, the safeguarding of environmental flows, the maintenance and improvement of water quality, and the protection of biodiversity. Water is a fundamental and vital element for the maintenance of ecosystems. We must optimally allocate water resources across the network and leverage the overall benefits of water resources to ensure that we can meet the demand for water from industry and the public, revitalize our waterways, and restore our river and lake ecosystems.
II. The overall layout of the national water network
President Xi has emphasized the need to apply systems thinking, use the ideas and methods of systems theory to analyze issues, and appropriately handle the relationships between development and conservation of water resources, existing and additional resources, and temporal and spatial aspects, in order to maximize the comprehensive benefits derived from projects. He has also emphasized the need to respect natural laws, understand long-term supply and demand trends and regional and structural features of water resources, and methodically determine the size and layout of projects. The Outline Plan for the Construction of the National Water Network expounded the need to maintain an overall perspective, safeguard people’s wellbeing, and continue to prioritize water conservation and balance distribution. It stated the need to achieve harmony between humans and water resources, pursue green development, persevere in systematic planning and risk management, continue to reform and innovate, and enable both the government and the market to fully play their roles. It also pointed to the need to coordinate existing and new projects as well as strengthen interconnections. According to the Outline Plan, by 2025, we need to have completed a number of key projects in the national water network, developed the key national network, and systematically developed water networks at the provincial, city, and county levels, in order to significantly reinforce national water security. By 2035, we need to have largely established the overall layout of the national water network, completed the main framework and major arteries of the network, improved the water networks of provinces, cities, and counties, and put in place a system of national water security fit for socialist modernization. To achieve these goals, we must implement the decisions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council on the development of the national water network to the letter. Focusing on river basins as a whole and the balanced distribution of water resources, as well as the specific features of rivers and lakes and the layout of water conservancy infrastructure, we need to accelerate the development of a national water network with smooth and unhindered circulation and that is complete, secure, effective, efficient, environmentally friendly, intelligent, and methodically regulated, so as to achieve a blend of economic, social, ecological, and security benefits.
Technicians conduct pipeline inspections on the Daxing Airport branch line of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, February 6, 2023. The 14-kilometer-long line is part of the second section on the middle route of the Southto-North Water Diversion Project channeling water into Beijing. This project has adopted new technologies such as underground curved pipe jacking, thus helping to ensure a dual-source water supply for the water plant at Beijing Daxing International Airport. PHOTO BY XINHUA REPORTER LI XIN
Developing the backbones of the national water network
Natural large river and lake water systems, major water diversion works, and major water transmission and drainage channels form the backbones of the national water network, and they are the focus for addressing the national spatial imbalance of water resources. The total volume of diverted water from the first phase of the eastern and central routes of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project exceeded 63 billion cubic meters, which directly benefited 150 million people. Construction has begun on key, strategic national water network projects, including the Guangdong water resources allocation project around the Beibu Gulf and the second phase of building a waterway from the Huaihe River to the Yellow Sea. Important nodal objectives have been achieved in major water diversion projects, including the first phase of the Yangtze River to Chaohu Lake and Huaihe River diversion project and the North Hubei water resources allocation project, gradually creating the foundations of a network of water transmission and drainage channels running the length and breadth of the country. With regard to the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, we must continue to develop follow-up projects; revise the project masterplan; accelerate the construction of the Yangtze River to Hanjiang River diversion project and implement flood prevention projects along the central route; advance the construction of the second phase of the eastern route; and conduct feasibility studies on the western route. We need to swiftly construct major trans-basin and trans-regional water resource allocation projects and key flood control projects covering major rivers and lakes, implement upgrades to levees of major rivers and comprehensive management of river courses, better coordinate allocations of water resources between river basins and regions, and consolidate and expand floodwater diversion capabilities for major rivers. We also need to step up the environmental protection and restoration of, as well as create ecological corridors along, major rivers and lakes.
Creating links in the national water network
Regional river and lake connectivity projects and water supply channels constitute the links in the national water network, which are the focus for addressing the regional spatial imbalance in water resources. We need to work quickly to create links between major national and regional water resource allocation projects, promote the construction of regional river and lake connectivity and diversion and drainage projects, and promote the construction of quality provincial water networks. We must continue to construct water networks at the city and county levels, improve the network of rural water supply projects according to local conditions, and promote a unified water supply in urban and rural areas, large-scale water supply projects in rural areas, and higher standards in small-scale water supply projects. We will also improve basic public services related to water conservancy projects and gradually create a water network that unifies urban and rural areas and has good interconnections. We will boost the construction of modern irrigation areas. In relation to the new drive to increase grain production capacity by 50 million metric tons, we will develop a new group of water-conserving and eco-friendly irrigation areas, with the focus on grain-producing areas, protected areas for the production of major agricultural products, and favorable areas for the production of specialty agricultural products, as well as water source and water transmission projects related to the key national network.
Establishing strong nodes in the national water network
Water storage projects, with their regulating functions, constitute the nodes in the national water network, and they are storage, transfer, and reapportioning hubs that can be used to address the imbalanced temporal distribution of water resources. We need to accelerate storage and key water source projects, with consideration given to comprehensive functions, such as flood control, water supply, irrigation, shipping, power generation, and environmental protection. We need to boost the integrated management of water projects in river basins to improve our ability to manage water resources. We need to implement key water source projects, maximize the water supply potential of existing water source and storage projects, and increase water storage capacity and flow regulation capabilities to enable various water sources to supplement one another and achieve multidirectional allocations of water resources. We must quickly complete small and medium-sized water source projects in underdeveloped areas, old revolutionary base areas, ethnic minority areas, islands, and key counties designated to receive assistance for rural revitalization, and strengthen our capacity to guarantee water supplies in urban and rural areas. We will also promote the construction of floodwater detention and retention basins and ensure they are utilized in a timely and effective manner.
III. Structural improvements to the national water network
President Xi has stressed the need to accelerate the construction of the national water network, that the objective during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025) is to strive to improve water security, and that our focus should be on optimizing the water resource allocation and improving the flood prevention and disaster mitigation of river basins. The Outline Plan for the Construction of the National Water Network proposed improving the water allocation and supply, the flood prevention and disaster mitigation of river basins, and the ecosystem protection and management of rivers and lakes. It also requires further improvements to flood and drought management, economical and efficient use of water resources, optimal allocations of water resources, and better protection and management of major river and lake ecosystems.
Improving water resources allocation and ensuring water supplies
Temporal and spatial imbalances exist in China’s water resources, and our per capita water resources are far below the world average. Precipitation in the flood season accounts for 60% to 80% of the annual total, and there are stark differences in water resources between the north and south of the country. In the long term, water shortage will remain an extremely prominent issue in China. With the focus on ensuring implementation of major regional development strategies, we must lay equal emphasis on prioritizing water conservation, using water resources as capacity permits, and seeking new sources while driving efficiency. We must adopt measures to increase supply while controlling demand. On the basis of water conservation and control, we must systematically plan water resource allocation projects and water source projects, improve the allocation of water resources, and promote complementarity and coordinated regulation.
Water transfer operations are carried out at the Baolin Aqueduct from Guangshui to Dawu, a section of the Northern Hubei Water Resource Allocation Project, March 29, 2023. This initiative is the largest water conservancy project in Hubei’s history, in terms of scale, coverage, and public benefit. MINISTRY OF WATER RESOURCES/PHOTO BY XIAO GAODONG
Improving flood prevention and disaster mitigation of river basins
Floods have always posed a severe threat in China. Following rapid socioeconomic development, China’s GDP and urbanization level have increased markedly and our industrial structure has been upgraded, but plains and deltas in the middle and lower reaches of rivers continue to be threatened by floods, so long-term and arduous efforts are required to prevent further disasters due to flooding. We need to optimize the layout of flood prevention and disaster mitigation in river basin, adopt a combination of flood diversion, water storage, and risk mitigation measures, and develop a modern system of river basin flood prevention projects comprising reservoirs, river channels, levees, and detention and retention basins. We also need to systematically raise the standards of flood prevention projects to ensure we build solid flood defenses and safeguard the lives and property of the Chinese people.
Improving the protection and management of river and lake ecosystems
As the result of river and lake ecological restoration efforts in recent years, water has flowed along the full course of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal for the first time in a century, along the course of the Yongding River for three consecutive years, and along the Hutuo, Ziya, Daqing, and other previously dried-up rivers for the first time in many years, and Baiyangdian Lake has reached 100% of its ecological water level. Thanks to these efforts, the public are once again able to enjoy rivers that run clean enough for fish to be seen. Nevertheless, the ecological issues associated with rivers and lakes are cumulative and enduring, so we still have a long way to go to ensure their vitality. We must thoroughly implement Xi Jinping thought on ecological conservation, focus on improving the quality and stability of ecosystems, and adhere to systematic, holistic, and source-oriented management. We need to coordinate efforts across the upper, middle, and lower reaches of river basins, consider both surface and subsurface resources, adopt comprehensive measures based on local conditions, and effectively protect and restore river and lake ecosystems. We must also comprehensively address the over-extraction of groundwater, strengthen water source conservation as well as water and soil conservation, and accelerate the ecological restoration of rivers and lakes to maintain their vitality and put their functions on a sustainable footing.
IV. High-quality development of the national water network
President Xi has stated that we must fully and faithfully apply the new development philosophy and, in accordance with the requirements of high-quality development, adhere to the principles of responding to actual needs, ecological safety, and sustainability of major water conservancy projects as well as plan and develop projects with the focus on the whole length of river basins and the balanced distribution of water resources.To accelerate the development of the national water network, we must thoroughly implement President Xi’s idea on water management, including to prioritize water conservation, balance distribution, implement systematic governance, and enable both the government and the market to fully play their roles; adopt a goal- and problem-oriented approach; coordinate the development of the key national network with the water networks of provinces, cities, and counties; ensure high standards and quality; and improve water security in all respects.
Promoting secure development
We must raise water security standards, build national water network projects to a high standard, and upgrade existing works, in order to improve the overall security of the water network. We must strengthen efforts to reduce water security risks, with the focus on mitigating risks related to water resources, aquatic ecosystems, and floods. We need to establish full-chain management of risk detection, investigation, early warning, prevention, handling, and accountability. We need to improve the protective measures of projects to ensure the safe operation and security of the national water network. We must strengthen the unified management of the water network to maximize the efficiency of the whole network and enhance our security, resilience, and risk mitigation capacity.
Achieving green development
We need to apply Xi Jinping thought on ecological conservation throughout the planning, design, construction, operation, and management processes of the national water network. We will strengthen the binding force of water carrying capacity limits, adhere to the principle of planning urban development, land use, industrial production, and population growth around water resources, and step up efforts to use water resources more economically, efficiently, and securely. We will appropriately control the development and utilization of water resources, prioritize water conservation over diversion, pollution control over water transmission, and environmental protection over water use, and develop water-conserving and efficient water network projects. We will boost environmental management of the water network, ensure environmental flows of rivers and lakes, and protect the integrity and biodiversity of river and lake ecosystems.
Accelerating smart development
Adhering to the concepts of being demand-driven and application-focused and realizing digital empowerment and enhanced capabilities, we will support the development of a digital twin water network to create a comprehensive, precise, multidimensional, and secure monitoring system. We will conduct digital mapping, smart simulations, and previews of the physical water network over time and space and covering all processes and elements. We will promote applications of new technologies and methods, including next-generation information technology, high-resolution remote sensing, and artificial intelligence. We will develop the forecasting, early warning, preview, and planning functions in water network regulation, operation, and management as well as improve digitalized, internet-based, and smart-tech capabilities used in the construction, operation, and management of water network facilities.
Coordinating integrated development
We need to strengthen connections between the key national network and provincial water networks, coordinate the water networks of provinces, cities, and counties, and optimize the layout of rivers and lakes in cities and counties. We need to promote the construction of water conservancy infrastructure, overcome the final key hurdles in flood prevention and drainage and water resource allocation, and improve basic public services related to water conservancy in urban and rural areas. We also need to coordinate the development of the water network with related industries including modern agriculture, hydropower, and shipping to maximize the overall efficiency and benefits of the water network.
Pursuing innovative development
We will create an innovative management system for developing the water network and adopt a management model that integrates investment, construction, and operation functions. We will further the reform of the investment and financing systems and mechanisms related to water conservancy, seek funding through various channels while leveraging government investment, and encourage the involvement of eligible nongovernmental capital in the construction and operation of water network projects. We will establish a sound water pricing mechanism that promotes conservation, enables the sound operation of water conservancy projects, and that is compatible with the reform of water conservancy investment and financing systems and mechanisms. We will promote market-based trading of water rights. We will conduct research on major issues and strive for key technical breakthroughs related to the construction of the national water network and support scientific and technological progress in the planning and design, construction and operation, and coordinated management of the water network.
Strengthening clean governance
We must closely monitor key links such as bidding on, and the review and approval of, water conservancy projects and the examination and approval of market qualifications for water conservancy construction. We will promote on-site supervision of major water conservancy projects by specially appointed supervisors to ensure clean operations and encourage the parties involved to sign integrity agreements. We will strengthen the supervision of key areas, such as the construction of water conservancy projects, the management and use of water conservancy funds, and the management of water conservancy construction qualifications. In doing so, we will ensure that national water network projects are of high standard, environmentally friendly, safe, and ethical.
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 13, 2023)
Source: English Edition of Qiushi Journal,No.4,2023