China China releases draft “Yellow River Protection Law”

China releases draft “Yellow River Protection Law”

On December 20, 2021, the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress began deliberations on draft “Yellow River Protection Law”. The draft is one of the river-based legislations to solve the problem of water shortage in the Yellow River. The draft Law sets forth comprehensive and strict regulations on the conservation and intensive use of water resources, including industrial and agricultural water. With the publishment of the Yangtze River Protection Law in December 2020, the environmental management system on a river-by-river basis will be increasingly strengthened.

A summary of the draft is as follows.

Application scope

The Yellow River basin referred to in this draft Law covers Qinghai Province, Sichuan Province, Gansu Province, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Shanxi Province, Shaanxi Province, Henan Province and related county-level administrative areas in Shandong Province in the catchment area formed by the mainstream, tributaries and lakes of the Yellow River.

Total water withdrawal regulation

Articles 43 and 44 of the draft stipulate that the relevant departments of the State Council must determine total water withdrawals regulation indicators of surface water and groundwater in each region of the Yellow River basin. Then, based on the indicators set by the State Council, the local government of each region will set the regulation indicators for industrial water and other water in this region.

Stricter water withdrawal permits

Article 45 stipulates that in water resource overload areas in the Yellow River basin, it is prohibited to obtain new water withdrawal permits, and in areas where water resource load has reached the limit, it is strictly restricted to obtain water withdrawal permits. According to provisions of the same article, the projects construction with high water consumption will be strictly regulated in the Yellow River basin. In addition, Article 45 mentions that the relevant departments of the State Council plan to establish the “Negative List for Entry into High Water Consumption Industries” and the “Phase-out List of High Water-Consuming Industries” in the future. Applications for water withdrawal for construction projects on the lists will not be approved.

Management system based on compulsory water intake norm (baseline water consumption)

Article 46 of the draft stipulates that a compulsory water intake norm management system will be implemented by the State in the Yellow River basin. In the future, compulsory water intake norm will be set by the relevant departments of the State Council for industrial sectors with high water consumption in the Yellow River basin. Local governments in the Yellow River basin can enact water intake norms that are stricter than those set by the national government, or types of water intake norms that are not specified by the national government. Article 46, paragraph 3 stipulates as follows. Water users in the Yellow River basin and relevant county-level administrative regions of the Yellow River water supply zone in Henan and Shandong provinces must strictly apply the compulsory water intake norms. If the compulsory water intake norm is exceeded, water-saving technical modifications must be implemented within a time limit.


The original text of the above draft can be viewed at the following URL (in simplified Chinese).

Author / Responsibility

AOKI Kenji

Senior Consultant, EnviX Ltd.
General Director, E&H Consulting Co., Ltd.

Business Performance

Expertise in EHS (environment, health and safety) consulting in ASEAN region.
- Environmental regulations updating
- Chemical regulations consulting


MSc in Earth Science, The University of Tokyo

AOKI Kenji