Water Stewardship In Industrial Parks: The Kunshan Case

By Zhenzhen Xu, Aihui Yang, Dadi Feng 17 October, 2017

Xu, Yang & Feng share lessons from another pilot project

Kunshan City is one of China's most developed county-level cities but faces increasingly serious water challenges
12 enterprises selected from circuit boards, chems and printing & dyeing; AWS & WWF standards were applied
3 key lessons learnt; project to expand as Jiangsu’s provincial govt promotes the so-called ‘2-6-3 Action Plan'

Earlier this year, we introduced how water stewardship and the AWS Standard have been implemented in Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA). In this article, we will share the experiences learned from another key industrial area in China – Kunshan City in the Yangtze River Delta.

Why Kunshan & what are the water challenges?

Kunshan City is located between Jiangsu and Shanghai. It has been ranked as the most developed county-level city in China. In the southeastern part of Kunshan City lies Qiandeng town, an area with a rich 2500-year long history. Now, Qiandeng town is home to manufacturers of electronic materials and high-end automotive components, trade logistics and other industries. On top of that, the town is a national agricultural demonstration area and an industrial base for circuit board production. As such, Qiandeng town has become the economic centre of Kunshan City.

In the southeastern part of Kunshan City lies Qiandeng town, a national agricultural demonstration area & an industrial base for circuit board production…

…limited water resource availability has become the main bottleneck restricting the industrial development of Qiandeng town

Wastewater Treatment Plant (photo by Ningjie Zheng)3
Limited water resource availability has become the main bottleneck restricting the industrial development of Qiandeng town in the sensitive region of the Wusong River Basin between Jiangsu Province and Shanghai border. In recent years, this region has faced increasingly serious water challenges:

  • The Water Ten plan puts more stringent targets and deadlines for the Yangtze River Delta region
  • As both central and local environmental inspections are stepped up, pollution violations are more costly
  • The campaign to improve water quality has entered its final stretch, and basin-wide governance needs refinement and long-term mechanisms
  • Various stakeholders operating in this watershed increasingly need to understand the common challenges that they face together as a community

Under pressure from various policies and regulations, the industrial enterprises of Qiandeng town are also shifting to a more active strategy, with a more positive and systematic way to re-examine their own water use and wastewater discharge.

A multilateral approach to facilitate corporate-level implementation

Under a cooperation framework involving WWF and the Jiangsu Provincial Development and Reform Commission, the park’s water management innovation expert group was established, led by WWF. Starting from August 2016, the expert group and the Qiandeng Town Environmental Protection Bureau jointly promoted the industrial park’s water stewardship enterprise capacity building project. AWS is one of the key members of the project and is involved in the implementation of the project.

Starting in Aug 2016, WWF’s expert group & the Qiandeng EPB have promoted the industrial park’s water management innovation enterprise capacity building project

Factory training in Qiandeng Township (Photo by Zhenzhen Xu)1
After August’s in-depth training and the town’s corporate briefing in October, the project team selected 12 key demonstration enterprises from 137 industrial discharge units, covering three key industries: circuit boards, chemical, and printing & dyeing. These enterprises are mainly located industrial parks specilised in the circuit board and chemicals sector, including both foreign-funded enterprises and private enterprises. Chosen enterprises withdrew water from both water plants and directly from rivers, and after being treated at either the Qiandeng Wastewater Treatment Plant, Qiandeng Torch Sewage Treatment Plant or Qiandeng Fangyuan Wastewater Treatment Plant, discharged into the Wusong River.

12 key demonstration enterprises were selected from 137 industrial discharge units…

…covering three key industries: circuit boards, chemical, and printing & dyeing

For each key demonstration enterprise, the AWS standard and WWF’s Industrial Water Stewardship Implementation Guideline have been applied (for more on the AWS standard see here and here)

What progress have we seen?

Based on feedback from Qiandeng Township government and participating companies, there are mainly three key lessons learnt from this project:
1. A deep understanding & long-term view needed
By signing a water management innovation responsibility agreement, pilot enterprises have made clear divisions of responsibility. Enterprises with more detailed divisions of labour and responsibilities tend to show the best results. The key is that the enterprise’s manager must set an example by focusing on the importance of enterprise resources, personally grasp, personally check, personally advance progress, and extend the time span of cost-benefit considerations. Only then can the real situation be observed and managed.
2. Invest, invest and invest
To generate economic benefits, you must invest first. Enterprise water management innovation also requires pre-investment, transformation of facilities and equipment. Through such innovation, income can be greater than the expenditure to achieve dual benefits on the environmental and economic fronts.
3. Management is key
There is a saying in Chinese: 30% of success depends on technology and 70% on management. Therefore, companies must actively promote 5-S or even 7-S management systems, but also with an organic combination of environmental protection:

  • Firstly, develop a proposal and a corresponding assessment system for full participation, protection of the environment and saving water consumption. At the same time, regularly carry out targeted staff training and assessment, and fully mobilize the enthusiasm of staff, so that water resources management innovation can really be implemented.
  • Secondly, disaggregate wastewater discharge and water costs by workshop, class, products, and by month. Effective information on water consumption and discharge costs is key to optimizing production and management.
  • Thirdly, implement an equipment inspection system. Regularly check the equipment of the water control solenoid valve, ensure that the water level controller is intact, and ensure timely maintenance of cooling towers, waste gas treatment tower and other equipment which consume water to avoid losses.
  • Fourthly, develop short-term, medium-term and long-term water-saving plans, and with the implementation of the timely adjustment and adjustment, and constantly adapt to the enterprise development model.

The next steps….

Jiangsu’s provincial government is vigorously promoting the so-called ‘2-6-3 Action Plani, which aptly reflects the government’s multi-pronged regulatory approach to a new situation. With the cracking down on a number of illegal enterprises, the future focus of the work will be the optimal allocation of environmental resources, further enhance the water quality of environment, and sustainable development of water resources. In this context, this project will continue to expand, and has already started a few pilot projects with key industrial enterprises across Kunshan City on innovative water management.

AWS is also promoting water stewardship beyond Kunshan city e.g. Jiangsu, WSCN

Meanwhile, AWS, WWF and Jiangsu Province Engineering Consulting Centre have also signed an MOU to promote water stewardship in industrial water management in Jiangsu. In 2016, AWS, along with a few other leading organisations in China, also initiated the Water Stewardship China Network (WSCN). The purpose of this is to form a band of water experts, and promote more exchange and collaboration amongst each other.

Note: this project received funding from the HSBC Water Programme (HWP). For each key demonstration enterprise, the AWS standard and WWF’s Industrial Water Stewardship Implementation Guideline have been applied (for more on the AWS standard see here and here).  An independent assessment took place this June by TUV Rheinland to evaluate the progress of the demonstration enterprises and local township government.

i ‘2-6-3 Action Plan’ refers to Jiangsu’s provincial policy issued in late 2016, which includes 1) ‘2’ reductions of coal consumption and backward production capacity; 2) managing ‘6’ key public environmental concerns, including Taihu Lake pollution, municipal waste, black & odorous waters, pollution from livestock pollution, Volatile Organic Compound (VOCs) pollution, and overall environmental risks; and 3) improving management in ‘3’ areas including ecological protection, environmental economic policy regulation, and environmental supervision and enforcement.

Further Reading

  • The Hidden Cost Of China’s Coal-to-Chemical Sector – Future costs in China’s coal-to-chemical sector could increase by up to 2/3 due to environmental risks. Trucost’s Kaboo Leung shares a new framework from their recent report to stress test these risks & embed them into financial analysis
  • China’s River Chiefs: Who Are They? – River chiefs were first implemented in 2007 following a pollution incident. Now, by 2018 all of China’s rivers/lakes will have river chiefs. How will this work & what do they do? China Water Risk’s Yuanchao Xu expands
  • 5 Facts About The Tarim River – Compared to the Yangtze or the Yellow, the Tarim River Basin is relatively unknown despite its strategic importance as China’s ‘Water Tower’ with 41% of its ice. China Water Risk’s Feng Hu shares 5 water facts we need to know about the Tarim
  • Rivers Flow In Me: Reflections From Zhejiang – China Water Risk’s Feng Hu shares his childhood experiences with rivers in Zhejiang and laments the pollution that has occurred since; but as government and business marry economic decisions with water, things are looking up
  • Water Stewardship In Industrial Parks: TEDA Pilot – Industrial parks generate 22.5% of China’s GDP but can this last given water security and pollution concerns? An Chen, from the TEDA Eco Center & Zhenzhen Xu from the Alliance for Water Stewardship show how the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area leads in mitigating these risks
  • Developing A Global Water Stewardship System – Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Zhenzhen Xu, Ma Xi & Michael Spencer introduce the first ever global water stewardship standard and share lessons learnt from Ecolab’s pilot at their Taicang China chemical plant
  • Why Should PRD Business Lead In Water Stewardship? – With the Pearl River Delta set to lead China’s economic growth, China Water Risk’s Feng Hu & the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s Zhenzhen Xu explain why business should adopt water stewardship to ensure continued prosperity
  • Water Stewardship: The Impact To Date – A new report finds there has been little evolution from business -as-usual in regards to water management. What behaviours need to change? How can this be achieved? We sat down with report authors James Dalton from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) & Peter Newborne from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)
  • Innovating Water Stewardship Through Business Ecosystems – William Sarni, water stewardship expert, on the need for innovation in water strategies in order to better position for 21st Century water risks. Sarni points to “business ecosystems” as the driver for this innovation and value creation
Zhenzhen Xu
Author: Zhenzhen Xu
Zhenzhen leads CWR’s stewardship initiatives which focus on rolling out the Alliance for Water Stewardship’s (AWS) International Water Stewardship Standard across Asia Pacific. She has more than 10 years of experience in the field of industrial water solutions, corporate water stewardship and sustainable financing. Previously, Zhenzhen was based in Shanghai, where she established AWS China, heading a team to design and implement on-ground water stewardship programmes for leading MNCs, global brands, Chinese corporations as well as industrial parks and even university campuses. There, she worked closely with multi-stakeholders in critical regions such as the Yangtze and Pearl River Deltas as well as the Bohai Bay Area. Her time spent with businesses, local governments and NGOs to enhance catchment management through strategy & operational roundtables, trainings and site pilots provides valuable insights to managing basin risks. Zhenzhen also advises them on policy interventions and market incentives to build sustainable and holistic models to protect watersheds. Prior to this, she worked for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), co-leading their China Water Program; Veolia Water and Sogreah Consultancy. She holds a Bachelor of Environmental Engineering from Tongji University and a Master of Environmental Management and Development from the Australian National University.
Read more from Zhenzhen Xu →
Aihui Yang
Author: Aihui Yang
Project Manager of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) China. More than eight year project management experience, during which Yang has taken part in “HSBC Climate Partnership Programme” and “HSBC Water Programme” as a Senior Programme Manager: Play a key role in and contribute to the wetland restoration for water source protection, Shanghai Dalian Lake Mode, Work on the water resource management and wetland restoration for multi-donors such as HSBC, Ecolab, H&M and P&G; Promote to apply water footprint and water risk tools to the supply chain of Bright Dairy and the industrial park upgrade of Xixiashu Textile Park and Qiandeng Industrial Park; Organize to develop the multi-stakeholder engagement mechanism for better basin governance. In addition, Yang has plenty of work experience of financial and administrative management.
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Dadi Feng
Author: Dadi Feng
Director of Qiandeng Town (Kunshan City) Environmental Protection Office and Deputy Leader of Improvement Working Group of Kunshan City ‘2-6-3 Action Plan’ Office. For many years, he has worked on environmental issues at the local level and gained rich experiences on both practical and theoretical issues. He has also written dozens of papers on environmental protection and ecological civilisation. He has received awards for his outstanding performance from the MEP, Suzhou City government as well as Kunshan City government. Feng holds a master degree.
Read more from Dadi Feng →