2013-2014 Key Water Policies Review

By Dawn McGregor 12 March, 2014

Haven't been following China's 3 Red Lines to protect water? Check out our summary of key policies

China govt. has been busy issuing environmental policies/standards in efforts to increase penalties
Focus is more on pollution than use & efficiency; 24 out of 27 key policies below include pollution
Policies vary:discharge standards to govt. collaborations across sectors + include fines & incentives

For Key Water Policies from 2011 – 2013 February see here.

Standard: Discharge of Water Pollutants for Ammonia Industry (March 2013)

  • Provides discharge limits for water pollutants from ammonia companies and requirements on monitoring and supervision, replacing GB 13458-2001
  • Came into effect on July 1, 2013

Standard: Effluent of Water Pollutants for Citric Acid Industry (March 2013)

  • Defines special discharge limits for water pollutants, replacing GB 19430-2004
  • Came into effect on July 1, 2013

Work Plan on Ground Water Pollution Prevention & Control in North China Plain (April 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP, MWR, MLR & MOHURD
  • 56 companies named & shamed for polluting North China Plain with seepage wells

Environmental Protection Law Amendment (June 2013)

  • The Environmental Protection Law was first passed in 1989
  • The second draft revision was released on 25 June 2013. Read more on this here
  • The third draft was released in October. Read more on this here
  • It is now in the fourth revision and is expected to pass this year

Boosting Energy Saving & Environmental Protection Industries (August 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): State Council
  • List of measures and guidelines to boost environmental protection and energy conservation industries
  • Accelerate development of the following key areas:
    • Environmental Protection: Denitrification & desulphurisation equipment, development & application of environmental monitoring instruments, new water and solid waste treatment technologies, technology for remediation of contaminated soils
    • Energy Conservation: Environmentally friendly vehicles, high efficiency boilers and electric motors, regenerative combustion and semiconductor lighting technology

Regulation on Urban Drainage & Sewage Treatment (October 2013)                       

  • Responsible department(s): State Council
  • Severe punishments to be given for illegal emissions of wastewater

Prevention & Control of Pollution from Large-scale Breeding of Livestock and Poultry (November 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): State Council
  • It is the first environment-related regulation tackling pollution in agriculture at the national level
  • It details requirements on waste treatment and reuse
  • Penalties range from RMB 0.03 million – 0.5 million
  • See more on this here

Guideline on Project Construction & Investment for Rural Sewage Treatment (November 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP
  • Provide basic investment standards and indicators for rural sewage treatment plants

Guidelines for the Disclosure of Government Information in Connection with the EIA of Construction Projects (November 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP
  • Effective since 1 January, 2014
  • Disclose lists to the public of enterprises that have discharged pollutants exceeding national or local discharge standards, or whose total amount of pollutant discharge exceeds the total discharge control targets set by the local people’s governments
  • Environmental protection departments have the authority to perform an audit of environmental information released by an enterprise

Closer Cooperation in Dealing with Environment-related Crimes & Punishing Offenders (December 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP, MPS
  • China’s Ministry of Public Security and MEP vowed closer cooperation in dealing with environment-related crimes and punishing offenders
  • The two ministries will cooperate on three main types of cases: Dumping of hazardous waste, discharging more than the allotted quota of pollutants and a deterioration of the ecological environment
  • See more on this here

Water-for-Coal Plan (Opinions on Water Resources Assessment in Large-scale Coal & Power Base Development) (December 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MWR
  • This ‘Water-for-Coal Plan’ is part of the “Most Stringent Water Management System” released in January 2013, which set provincial water use quotas in order to meet the “Three Red Lines”
  • The plan lists several requirements for the management and future development of large-scale coal bases and power plants. China future coal plans depend on regional water availability
  • See more on this here

Environmental Credit of Enterprises – Trial Implementation (December 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP, NDRC, People’s Bank of China & China Banking Regulatory Commission
  • The trial started on March 1, 2014
  • The targeted enterprises cover heavily polluting industries that include: energy, transportation, thermal power, steel, cement, electrolytic aluminium, coal, metallurgy, chemical, petrochemical, building materials, paper, brewing, pharmaceutical, fermentation, textile, leather  and mining
  • Companies that exceed prescribed emissions standards, use or produce toxic and hazardous materials, have caused significant environmental damage, have been fined more than RMB 50,000 or possess a recordable offense, or have been identified by environmental protection departments at provincial levels will also be included
  • Each company will be assigned a rating according to a four-colored scale—green (trustworthy), blue (good), yellow (warning), and red (adverse)—which will be determined based on the company’s carbon emissions and efforts to curb pollution
  • The ratings will then be used by banks and financial institutions in China to evaluate whether a new loan offering or subsidy should be granted to the company in question
  • The MEP has recommended that companies with the worst ratings should be prevented from receiving new funding until their environmental credit rating improves

Standard: Pollution Control on Co-processing of Solid Wastes in Cement Kilns (GB 30485—2013) (December 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP
  • Producers to install advanced anti-pollution technologies to meet the new standards, including the control of at least 60 percent of nitrogen dioxide emissions

Standard: Emission of Air Pollutants for Cement Industry (GB 4915-2013) (December 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP
  • Producers to install advanced anti-pollution technologies to meet the new standards, including the control of at least 60 percent of nitrogen dioxide emissions

Standard: Emission of Pollutants for Battery Industry (GB 30484-2013) (December 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP
  • Producers to install advanced anti-pollution technologies to meet the new standards, including the control of at least 60 percent of nitrogen dioxide emissions

Standard: Discharge of Water Pollutants for Leather and Fur Making Industry (GB 30486—2013) (December 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP
  • Came into effect from March 1, 2014
  • Producers to install advanced anti-pollution technologies to meet the new standards, including the control of at least 60 percent of nitrogen dioxide emissions

Guidelines on Promoting Water Pricing Reform in Urban Areas (December 2013)

  • Responsible department(s): NDRC, MOHURD
  • ‘Water Price Reform due by 2015
  • The three price tiers summarised: Water use above 80% of average monthly urban household;  Water use above 95% of average monthly urban household; and the document does not provide a percentage but outlines that the first, second and third tier will follow a pricing ratio of 1:1.5:3
  • See more on this here

Appraisal Measures of the Most Stringent Water Resources Management System (January 2014)

  • Responsible department(s): State Council
  • System came into place in 2012
  • Heads of local govts to be held accountable
  • Major indicators to be included: limiting water exploitation, improving water use efficiency and curbing water pollution
  • To include the following provincial targets: 1) total water use by 2015, 2020 and 2030; 2) industry water use per 10k RMB output, and irrigation efficiency coefficient; 3) water quality meeting ratio

Water Rights Trading Pilots for 53 Key Rivers (January 2014)

  • Responsible department(s): MWR
  • Expected to be completed in 5 years
  • Part of the ‘Most Stringent Water Resource Management System’

No. 1 Central Document in 2014 (January 2014)

  • Responsible department(s): State Council
  • Theme: “Improving the rural environment and maintaining food security”
  • Listed 8 aspects and 33 points for detailed government work on reforms related to the “three rural issues”– agriculture, rural areas and farmers
  • Improving national food security system listed on the top of the reform list for 2014 and the next few years
  • See more on this here

Energy Work Plan for 2014 (January 2014)

  • Responsible department(s): National Energy Administration
  • Key targets for 2014: Total energy consumption to be approximately 3.88 billion tonnes of standard coal equivalent; Coal share of total energy mix to fall below 65%; and Non-fossil fuel share will increase to 10.7%

Guideline on China’s Food & Nutrition Development 2014-2020 (January 2014)

  • Responsible department(s): State Council
  • By 2020, average daily calorie intake is 2,200 – 2,300 kcal, in which grain should be >50%, fat should be <30%, and daily protein intake should be 78g
  • Support the development of soybean industry

Government Considering Merging MLR, MWR, State Forestry Admin & Sate Oceanic Admin’s Environmental Regulatory Functionality into MEP (February 2014)

  • A nationwide monitoring system will be established to force industries to disclose exactly how much pollution they cause
  • It will become a criminal offence to misuse or switch off pollution control technology and misreport emission levels
  • The new amendments will abolish a “maximum fine” system in favour of unlimited penalties for repeat offenders
  • Slim down the NDRC into a sort of macroeconomic planning and research body with minimal powers of approval

Work Plan on Implementing Assessment of the ‘Most Stringent Water Management System’ (February 2014)

  • The assessment result will be one important indicator for a comprehensive performance evaluation of provincial government leaders. According to the Work Plan, provinces with outstanding performance will be given priority in relevant future projects; while, those who failed the assessment, need to report to the State Council about corrective measures in written within one month after the announcement
  • See more on this here

Notice on the Most Stringent Farmland Protection System (February 2014)

  • Responsible department(s): MLR
  • To make sure the 1.8 bn mu (120 mn hectares) redline of farmland is maintained
  • Once land is determined as basic farmland, it is under permanent protection and cannot be used for other purpose
  • Increase incentives towards farmland protection

Action Plan for Water Pollution Prevention & Control (Pending 2014)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP
  • Expected to be published in 1H 2014
  • Pollution control targets: Significantly reduce industry pollution, manage municipal pollutions and recover rural rivers
  • The plan is still being finalized but the budget has been set at RMB 2 trillion, exceeding the RMB 1.7 trillion (US $277 billion) China plans to spend battling its more-publicized air pollution crisis
  • It will aim to improve the quality of China’s water by 30 – 50 percent, through investments in technologies such as waste water treatment, recycling and membrane technology. The paper did not say how the funds would be raised, when the plan would take effect, or what timeframe was visualized

Action Plan for Soil Protection & Pollution Remediation (Pending 2014)

  • Responsible department(s): MEP
  • Plan to include:
    • Subsidies towards agri-tech on fertilizers and use of organic fertilizers
    • Subsidies towards fine breeds of animals and crops
    • Scaling up pig and dairy farms
  • See more on this here

Further Reading

  • The War on Water Pollution – Premier Li has just declared war on pollution. Tan expands on the government’s stratagems & offensives and fundamental changes required to shore up the MEP’s arsenal in order to wage a successful war
  • MEP Reform: From Mountaintop to Ocean? – The MEP is currently regarded as too weak to punish polluters due to dispersed authority & overlapping functions. Given the ‘war on pollution’, is reform to make a Super MEP necessary to improve China’s ‘mountains, water, forest, farmland & lakes’?
  • China Water Risk’s 5 Trends for 2014 – With environmental risk cited as one of the top risks most likely to derail economic growth along with the banking crisis and housing bubble, check out our top 5 trends in water for the year of the Green Horse

Law & Enforcement

  • More Power to Enforcement – Debra Tan gives a run down of upcoming “institutional innovations” discussed at the 2013 Beijing Forum and why the path-of-more-enforcement is still full of “areas of confusion”
  • Time to Enforce China’s Environmental Law – With the new guard in place, is it time to update China’s environmental law? Professor Wang gives a candid take on China’s environmental laws & enforcement – past, current and future

Water Pricing

  • Fundamental Issues: Industrial Wastewater – Professor Ma Zhong, dean of the School of Environment of Renmin University gives his in-depth views on the industrial wastewater standards & pricing. Is it cheaper to pollute than to treat?
  • Pricing Water – With the NDRC’s recent announcement of tiered tariff hikes across China’s cities to rein in top end water users, Tan mulls over the proposed tiered water tariffs hikes and whether price points and switchpoints between tiers are properly set


  • Fundamental Issues: Industrial Wastewater – Professor Ma Zhong, dean of the School of Environment of Renmin University gives his in-depth views on the industrial wastewater standards & pricing. Is it cheaper to pollute than to treat?
  • 8 Facts on China’s Wastewater – Don’t know anything about wastewater in China? Is it on the rise? Is industrial wastewater under-reported? Is it worse for rural areas? Check out our 8 facts from tech, key pollutants to standards
Dawn McGregor
Author: Dawn McGregor
Dawn leads CWR’s work to help corporates navigate increasingly disruptive & material risks from water & climate threats, as well as transitional risks in the supply chain arising from new regulations in China. Here, Dawn engages extensively with the global fashion industry delivering on-ground workshops in China to keynotes and strategic input at European HQs. She has written at length on the end of dirty and thirsty fast fashion and her report to overcome gaps between brands and manufacturers for a clean and circular future inspired the industry to create a new wastewater tool. Dawn also works closely with the property and tourism sectors where she not only conducts strategic assessments of their exposure but builds collective action toward resilience via closed door working groups and invite-only events. Having helped build CWR, Dawn is a frequent keynote, panellist & moderator at events, including being twice selected as the lead-rapporteur at World Water Week. Her articles are cited in various industry publications including the UN’s ‘World Without Water’. Dawn previously worked in a global investment bank assessing geo-political risk, crisis management and business resiliency. She was born and bred in Hong Kong and has lived in France, England, Singapore and Beijing.
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