On Jan. 14, China’s National Development and Reform Commission announced two programs intended to reduce nutrients and improve drinking water quality in the Yangtze River Delta near Shanghai.

The first program focuses on the country’s largest man-made reservoir, Qiandao Reservoir in Zhejiang Province, and the upstream basin of the Xin’an River. The program so far includes 173 projects to be completed by 2020 and funded by 12.7 billion Yuan (US$2 billion ) in government grants. Projects are intended to cut chemical oxygen demand by reducing ammonia and phosphorus.

Under the second plan, focusing on Tai Lake, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces and Shanghai municipality are responsible for reducing ammonia, total nitrogen and total phosphorus. Zhejiang province has set up 81 monitoring stations, providing environmental officials with real-time water quality data. Evaluations of officials from these jurisdictions will take into account efforts to meet the outlined goals.

Other efforts are underway to protect drinking water in rural areas. On Jan. 14, China’s National Development and Reform Commission, National Health and Family Planning Commission, and the ministries of Water Resources, Environmental Protection, and Finance released a document outlining agency responsibilities and funding allocation. Local governments are primarily responsible for drinking water quality in rural areas, and funding will be provided by the central government.

China also is working to protect groundwater resources along the Hai River, where groundwater depletion has occurred as nearby municipalities, such as Beijing, have grown. Using data from 565 monitoring stations, officials will develop protection plans and projects.  

Also dealing with water quantity, the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of Hubei province implemented water consumption quotas that will take effect April 1.  Water consumption quotas exist in 29 provinces and autonomous regions, according to the Ministry of Water Resources, and also are being established at the county level.

Finally, China also is focusing on protecting natural systems, from the ecological red line system to wetland protection efforts. According to a five-year study released by the State Forestry Administration on Jan. 13, China has lost 8.82% of its wetlands over the last 10 years. Wetlands now cover 5.58% of China or about 53.4 million ha (132 million ac), and these remaining wetlands are in danger due to rapid urbanization.

According to the State Forestry Administration’s vice director, as reported by Bloomberg BNA, funding has been inadequate, and not all allocated funds have been spent on wetlands protection. Funding pledged for 2011–2015 is about 12.9 billion Yuan (US$2.1 billion ), and about half that has been spent on wetland protection so far.

A national Wetlands Protection Law was proposed 10 years ago, but has not been finalized. However, the State Forestry Administration and National Development and Reform Commission are working on their own regulations, including some remediation plans that are part of agricultural pollution treatment programs. Further, efforts are underway in the provinces, as 19 have their own wetland protection regulations.