China China issues Yellow River Protection Law

Including water withdrawal regulation, a water allocation system and water pollutant discharge limits

China issues Yellow River Protection Law

On Oct. 30, 2022, China issued the Yellow River Protection Law, which will come into effect April 1, 2023. This law introduces to the Yellow River basin a ban on new projects for chemical production, limits on water withdrawal, stricter conditions for water withdrawal permission, a water allocation system, standards and limits for water pollutant discharge, and regulations on key entities for groundwater contamination control.


Scope of the law

The law applies to county-level municipalities in Qinghai province, Sichuan province, Gansu province, Ningxia Hui autonomous region, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Shanxi province, Shaanxi province, Henan province and Shandong province that are located in/around the catchment areas of the mainstream, tributaries and lakes of the Yellow River.


Ban on new projects for chemical production in the Yellow River basin

Article 26 of the law bans new projects as well as the expansion of projects of chemical industrial parks and chemical production in specified areas along the mainstream and tributaries of the Yellow River. According to Article 109, a violation of this rule is punishable by a fine of up to 5 million yuan ($693,000).


Limits on water withdrawal

According to Articles 48 and 49, government bodies under the State Council will set limits on surface water and groundwater withdrawal in areas belonging to the Yellow River basin. After that, according to the limits set by the State Council, local governments will set limits on groundwater withdrawal and industrial water use for their cities and other municipalities.


Stricter conditions for water withdrawal permission

  • According to Article 50, to draw water over a prescribed threshold amount from the Yellow River mainstream or its tributaries in specified sections of the river, the approval of the management body will be required.
  • According to Article 51, area-specific management of water resources will be implemented in accordance with local conditions. For instance, adjustments to the industrial structure and increased water conservation measures are planned for areas with heavy pollution pressure on water resources in the Yellow River basin.
  • Article 54 states that, in the Yellow River basin, the state will introduce a market access negative list for high-water-consumption industries as well as a list of high-water-consumption industries to be eliminated. These lists are planned to be issued by the National Development and Reform Commission and other government bodies. The article also says water withdrawal by construction projects included in these lists will not be allowed.


Water allocation system

According to Article 52, the state will implement a legally binding water allocation system in the Yellow River basin. Government bodies under the State Council will set water quotas for industries that consume large quantities of water. Entities using water along the Yellow River or in the areas where the Yellow River runs will be strictly subject to the allocation system, and if they use water over their allocation, they will be required to carry out technical transformation for water conservation within a specified period.


Standards and limits for water pollution discharge

  • Article 74 of the law requires the provincial-level local governments in the Yellow River basin to establish local standards for water pollutant discharge that are stricter than national standards if existing standards for pollutant discharge are not sufficient to meet the water quality requirements for the Yellow River basin.
  • According to Article 75, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment will set limits on the discharge amount of key water pollutants for the Yellow River basin. In areas failing to meet water quality standards, relevant departments of provincial-level local governments will implement stricter measures to reduce water pollutants. Companies discharging water pollutants will be required to take measures to control pollutant discharge amount.


Regulations on key entities for groundwater contamination control

According to Article 77, local government bodies will create lists of key pollutant discharging entities for groundwater contamination control. Those on the lists will be required to install automated monitoring equipment to observe water pollutant discharge as well as required to connect to an online monitoring system of their local government.


The full text of the Yellow River Protection Law (in Chinese) is available at


Chinese government are enhancing environmental management system for Yellow River. Since 2022, some official documents relevant to Yellow River were published.
Yellow River Basin Ecological and Environmental Protection Plan (issued on June 11, 2022)
Program for Ecological Protection of the Yellow River Basin (issued on Aug. 5, 2022)

In recent years, the Chinese government has been focusing on the protection of large rivers. On December 26, 2020, China published Yangtze River Protection Law. See more details below:
China issues Law to protect Yangtze River

Author / Responsibility

LIU Yake

Researcher, Research & Consulting Dept. EnviX Ltd.

Business Performance

worked as a research assistant at Department of Environmental Planning and Management, School of Environment, Tsinghua University for 4 years, and then joint in Envix in April, 2022, currently is mainly responsible for consulting on EHS regulation compliance in East Asia.


MA, Environmental Econimics, Hiroshima University