China China issues regulations on groundwater management

Total groundwater withdrawal limits, no-withdrawal zones, contamination control measures to be introduced

At an executive meeting on September 15, China’s State Council passed regulations to manage the country’s groundwater, which were published on October 21 and will come into effect on December 1. The regulations consist of eight chapters, namely, “General Provisions”, “Investigation and Planning”, “Conservation and Protection”, “Measures against Overexploitation”, “Contamination Control”, “Oversight”, “Legal Responsibility” and “Supplementary Provisions”. Here is an overview.

 

Conservation and protection

  • Total groundwater withdrawal limits and water level management system — Provincial-level governments set total groundwater withdrawal limits and water level standards for their jurisdictions.
  • Clear rules for groundwater conservation — Entities using groundwater are required to comply with the rules for total groundwater withdrawal limits and water allocation management, use advanced technologies and equipment for water conservation, etc.

Measures against overexploitation

  • No-withdrawal zones and restricted-withdrawal zones — Zones where groundwater withdrawal is banned or restricted are designated. Groundwater withdrawal in these zones is rigorously policed.
  • Measures against overexploitation — Governments at the county level or higher in groundwater overexploitation zones actively develop water conservation societies.

Contamination control

  • Key groundwater contamination control zones — Key groundwater contamination control zones are designated in areas where groundwater contamination needs to be addressed.
  • Tighter regulations on groundwater contamination — Exploiting loopholes of the regulations to discharge water pollutants is explicitly banned. Using water channels, holes, ponds, etc. to transport or store effluent containing toxic pollutants is banned unless they are designed to prevent leakage.
  • Groundwater contamination control measures for production and construction activities — Entities that conduct activities with an impact on the underground environment, such as construction of underground facilities, must include groundwater contamination control measures in their environmental impact assessment report.

Oversight

  • Increased monitoring of groundwater — A national network of groundwater monitoring stations and a groundwater monitoring information sharing system will be established.
  • Tighter regulations on groundwater withdrawal facility construction — Governments at the county level or higher are required to register and record groundwater withdrawal facility construction. Those who perform this construction must obtain a groundwater withdrawal permit and install a water withdrawal meter if the withdrawal amount exceeds a predetermined volume.

The “Legal Responsibility” chapter of the regulations defines penalties for violations. For example, serious violations will be punished with a fine of up to 5.00 million yuan (approximately $783,000).

 

The full text of the regulations (in simplified Chinese) is available at
http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2021-11/09/content_5649924.htm