A trend report on water pollution regulations.



The Water Pollution Control Act — one of the nine basic environmental protection laws and the overarching legislation for water pollution control — was introduced in 1984, setting out the government’s responsibility for supervision and the respective roles of central and local governments as well as legal liability for pollutant discharge into water. The act was revised in 2008 and again in 2017 (the latest, second version).

The chart below shows the timeline of the act from its introduction to the present.

Article 2 of the act defines “waters” as rivers, lakes, canals, irrigation channels, reservoirs or other surface or ground waters within the territory of China. It should be noted that marine pollution control is governed by the Marine Environmental Protection Act.

Below is the table of contents of the Water Pollution Control Act second version.

  • Chapter I General Provisions
  • Chapter II Standards and Plans for Water Pollution Control
  • Chapter III Supervision and Management of Water Pollution Control
  • Chapter IV Measures for Water Pollution Control
    • Section 1 General Rules
    • Section 2 Industrial Water Pollution Control
    • Section 3 Urban Water Pollution Control
    • Section 4 Water Pollution Control in Agricultural and Rural Areas
    • Section 5 Control of Water Pollution from Vessels
  • Chapter V Protection of Drinkable Water Sources and Other Special Waters
  • Chapter VI Management of Water Pollution Accidents
  • Chapter VII Legal Liabilities
  • Chapter VIII Supplementary Provisions



Any fixed and mobile water pollution sources discharging industrial or medical wastewater either directly or indirectly into water are regulated by the act.


Regulations and standards

The regulations and standards below are applied to water pollution sources.

Pollutants from fixed sources may not be discharged into water without the pollutant discharge license.

Standards for fixed water pollution sources (e.g. manufacturers)
Name Code Effective date
Emission Standard of Pollutants for Synthetic Resin Industry GB 31572-2015 July 1, 2015
Emission Standards of Pollutants for Inorganic Chemical Industry GB 31573-2015 July 1, 2015
Emission Standards of Pollutants for Secondary Copper, Aluminum, Lead and Zink GB 31574-2015 July 1, 2015
Integrated Wastewater Discharge Standard GB 8978-1996 Jan. 1 ,1998
Standards for mobile water pollution sources (e.g. vessels)
Discharge Standard for Water Pollutants from Ships GB 3552-2018 July 1, 2018

Article 16 of the act states that water pollution control should be based on an integrated plan that takes into account drainage areas, major rivers and major lakes.

According to this approach, the relevant laws and regulations, including those for drainage basins (sometimes tougher than other regulations), should be followed at both national and local levels.

Plans and Regulations for major drainage basins
Name Effective date
Plan for Water Pollution Control Projects in Key Drainage Basins (20162020) Oct. 12, 2017
Regulation on the Management of the Taihu Lake Basin Nov. 1, 2011
Interim Regulation on Water Pollution Control in the Huaihe River Basin Jan. 8, 2011


Reference websites

More information about regulations on water pollution is provided on the official sites below.

  1. The Water Pollution Control Act
  2. List of Toxic or Hazardous Water Pollutants (2019 version)
  3. List of Advanced Technologies for Water Pollution Control (2019 version)
  4. Standards for water pollution control
  5. Action Plan for Water Pollution Control
  6. Implementation Plan for Ground Water Pollution Control


EnviX’s view

After many years of effort, the Chinese government has achieved certain results for water pollution control by implementing preventive measures, such as the Water Pollution Control Act and the Plan for Water Pollution Control. The quality of waters in China was so poor until recently that the situation cannot be fundamentally changed without continuous commitment.

Indeed, measures like the Plan for Water Pollution Control have presented a few objectives of achieving a comprehensive improvement in the quality of the environment and waters by 2020, 2030 and 2050.

Manufacturers are encouraged to utilize such things as the pollutant discharge license and the Guidelines on Self-monitoring Technologies for Pollution Source Management, which are two of the key water pollution control measures. It is also important to take preventive steps against water pollution in a comprehensive way.