Along with population explosion and social economic development, human beings continuously intensify the exploitation and use of water resources. The trend of water shortage becomes more austere day by day, and the conflicts among sectors of water resources consumers are also becoming increasingly acute. There are major conflicts dealing with water resources conservation, farmland irrigation, and domestic water utilization, as well as those among upper and lower river reaches and sustainable consumption. These conflicts in different sectors, districts and time periods can not be reconciled through traditional scattered methods of management; the only solution is through integrated management of water resources in river basins.

This paper starts by analyzing the progressing course and problems of water resources management in river basins in China and abroad, stands on the practical problems of water resources management and systematically generates the model, organization structure and technical framework of integrated management of river basins that would meet the conditions in China. The study was based on the analysis of a complicated system of water resources in river basins, and on theories of conflict analysis.

Introduction

Water resources management of river basins in the USA

The concept of watershed management was originally developed in 1908 in the USA. At this stage, the condition of watersheds was considered as a macrocosm, and was intended to be used as a whole for management. The early stages of water resources management in river basins in the USA were that of comprehensive management, which focused on multi-object development of entire river basins. The Committee for Water Resources Management in River Basin was developed to be in charge of this management.

In the 1980s, the U.S. government weakened the management power of the committee and decentralized water resource management to state governments. However, they did not limit the State Water Policy Agency's function in formulating policies on uniform planning within the whole river basin, in coordinating water supply and drainage, nor in dealing with conflicts of water resources exploitation between upstream and downstream districts. Meanwhile, state governments plotted out natural resources districts by watershed unit, which were under the uniform management of the committee for natural resources of each state's governments. The districts had no right to manage the distribution and quality of surface water and groundwater, which were controlled by state water resources departments and environmental protection agencies; though they were responsible for coordinating water resources projects of other government departments such as collecting taxes, purchasing water rights, and coordinating research projects on exploitation and utilization of water resources (Zeng, 2003; Wei, 1998).

Water resources management in river basin in UK

The UK started its reform in water resources management and set up the Office for Water Resources in the 1960s. Furthermore, with the implementation of uniform management, water bureaus for each of the 29 major rivers of England and Wales were incorporated and condensed to 10 in the 1970s. The State Water Council was founded to manage surface water, groundwater, water supply and drainage, water quality and quantity within the dominant precinct of each water bureau, but was then terminated in 1982. Thus, the independent dominant precinct of each water bureau was enhanced, but all water bureaus were still directly under the leadership of the Department of Environment Protection, and the management system still belonged to a central department. The quality and quantity of water resources within the river basin, including the management of water supply and drainage enterprises, releasing the licenses for water draw and waste water discharge, etc., are still under the management of the Office for Water Resources and Water Bureaus (Zeng, 2003).

Experience and lessons of water resources management in river basin in western countries

The model of water resources management in river basins in western countries can be divided into both comprehensive, and fragmented styles of management. Comprehensive management indicates that the river basin water environment and its management should be considered as an integrated system, in order to seek an optimized exploitation strategy by multi-objective planning. The early comprehensive management approaches were mostly built on the basis of multi-objective planning models, but problems always occurred during the execution of the optimized programming scheme, because these approaches very much depend on mathematical models and operational research.

Fragmented management indicates that the planning and designing of water resources management are achieved by the separate sectors or districts involved. Fragmented management is the result of one-sided cognition on water environment of river basins from earlier times, and it has been proven impracticable. It leads to departmental or regional protectionism, and fails to give due considerations to the benefits of other districts or sectors.

Water resources management in river basins can also be termed as either concentrated or separated management. In the former, special institution is set by the state for uniform management of water resources, including the responsibility for the coordination of water resources exploitation of the different sectors. In the latter, the related departments of state government are responsible for management according to the responsibilities allocated separately; or the management responsibility is transferred to local governments which merely constitute the regulations and policies.

Both concentrated and separated management modes have their advantages and disadvantages. In separated mode, the conflicts of interest among different sectors are hard to solve, especially that of river basin exploitation of upriver and lower streams. Although centralized mode can avoid multi-thread leadership, it will inevitably occur that one unit becomes a “comprehensive” management system in which planning, managing and administering are considered as a whole and multi-sector interests will then be difficult to balance.

Therefore, a new model has been proposed; Integrated Management of Water Resources in River Basins (IMWRRB) which is a uniform management mode for the entire river basin, from a higher level of comprehensive management. It is embodied in a synthetic integration of strategies that come from fragmented planning in different sectors or districts, yet solves conflicts uniformly. Certain institutions are set up by the state who are responsible for integrated management of water resources and coordination of possible conflicts among different sectors. The function of the institution is limited to coordinating the constitution of laws, acts and standards; however, it does not interfere with water resources exploitation directly. IMWRRB can be achieved through the auction of use rights and pollution discharge rights of water resources, market readjustment, and negotiation, as well as intermediation of each party in the conflicts.

To some extent, IMWRRB is a mode of “concentration-separation” management mode. There are many common points between the management mode that America has adopted since the 1990s, and the integrated management mode discussed in this paper. “Concentration” is embodied in the constitution of policies, acts and standards formulated by the uniform management institutions of water resources in river basins, and the coordination among sectors or districts involved in the exploitation of water resources in river basin. “Separation” is embodied in the separated management on water resources of different sectors or districts in accordance with their respective functions and limits of powers. As thus, the autonomy of sectors and districts are initiated without neglecting the overall consideration and comprehensive management of the entire river basin.

Experience and lessons from water resources management in river basin in China

Water resources management in river basins in China is implemented by the Ministry of Water Conservancy and Electric Power, Ministry of Land and Resources, Ministry of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture, State Environmental Protection Administration of China, and the Ministry of Communication. The corresponding institutions are set in each province or municipality; basically, this can be categorized as separated management mode. Because of the tense situation of water supply and demand in northern China since the 1980s, some provinces established water resources management committees to manage local surface water and groundwater. In 1984, the State Council of the People's Republic of China designated the Ministry of Water Conservancy and Electric Power to put all water resources related matters, such as uniformly planning, legislation, distribution and scientific research of national water resources, under the centralized management and also to take charge of mediating conflicts among each sector involved in water utilization. This is the starting point of concentrated management mode in China.

Water resources management in river basins and water pollution control are implemented by different administrative departments: the water conservancy and electric power departments administer water quantity and waterpower, municipal departments administer municipal water supply and drainage, and the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) takes complete charge of water environmental protection and management. However, many of SEPA's responsibilities and authorities are overlapped with many other departments. Uniform planning and proper redistribution can't be reached by means of multi-department water resources conservancy. Although comprehensive management institutions of river basin levels have been established, such as the Water Conservancy Committee of Yangtze River, and the Water Conservancy Committee of Pearl River, they have no power of law enforcement; instead, they simply play a role in the disposal of flood crisis. The framework for IMWRRB hasn't come into being yet (Zeng, 2002, 2003).

Bureaus of water resources, established recently in some districts in China, take charge of water management within their own administrated districts, including the quality and quantity of water resources. However, these bureaus are repeating the old ways of concentrated management adopted by western countries such as the UK, which has failed to mitigate the conflicts appearing in the process of water resources exploitation. The governmental functions of the Committee for Water Resources Management in River Basin should exert sufficiently in China, especially the functions of policies and acts formulation, macroscopic readjustment and control, as well as conflict coordination. In order to mitigate conflicts in water resources in river basin exploitation, it has become an urgent issue to establish the management system and strategies of IMWRRB on the occasion of institution reform and enterprises' proprietorship transition.

Conceptual Model of IMWRRB of water resources on river basin

As early as the late 1980s, much work was done on IMWRRB in many countries, especially in those with water shortages and cross-basin countries. Encouraging progress and great benefits were made in orientation and socialization of the model, including participation of the banks, reduction of monopolization, trading of water rights, participation of the public, outlaying of recycling mechanisms, and the organization of construction at basin level (Mitchell, 1990; Geldof, 1995; Ngirane, 1991).

The targets of IMWRRB involve not only supply of water resources and flood control, but also problems including wetland protection, agriculture development, sustainable development of water resources, and global environmental protection. IMWRRB emphasizes long-term and sustainable utilization, rather than unilateral decision making to meet certain water resources demands. The objectives of IMWRRB are: 1) to maintain high quality of water resources in order to achieve long-term, sustainable and stable developing objectives; 2) to properly allocate water resources so as to mitigate the conflicts in the process of water resources exploitation from aspects of water quality and quantity; 3) to reduce cost on water resources utilization that are either competitive or incompatible; and 4) to improve the potential of multi-object utilization. It is a process of negotiation, in which the proper allocation of limited water resources among conflict sectors is gained by conflict analysis.

Various utilization methods of water resources not only connect and confine each other, but also interact with each other; thus the complicated large-scale system of river basin water environment is formed. The large-scale system has the typical characteristics of: multilevel, multi-layer and multi-subsystem. It is not enough for management of this large-scale system to be considered separately from the view of each sector or district. However, it also needs consideration from a global point of view, and the comprehensive perspective of all sectors. Consequently, the idea of “integration” is put forward while “conflict” is the problem that needs to be solved with integration approaches. “Integration” is achieved by the negotiation, mediation and model analysis of “conflict”. Combination of decomposing-coordination with conflict analysis is the main approach of IMWRRB.

Thus it can be seen that there are essential differences between “integrated management” and “concentrated management”. Concentrated management synthesizes exploitation, utilization and conservancy of water resources as well as social economy development of river basins, which are considered as a whole, while an integrated management department is fully in charge of all things about water resources and integrated uniform management. Integrated management allocates the exploitation, utilization, and conservancy of water resources to the management of each department and to private companies that are uniformly coordinated by the Committee for Water Resources Management. By assembling the demands of all parties to balance their rights and interests, mitigating conflicts through negotiation and mediation, an overall plan that will hopefully satisfy all parties is developed.

Another key issue of IMWRRB lies in information disclosure and public participation. The rapid development of computer hardware and Internet technology has provided a feasible way of information disclosure. Decision support systems and database technology have provided powerful tools for decision makers of IMWRRB.

Theoretical framework for IMWRRB

Main content

The main focus of IMWRRB is the management method of system boundaries which deals with the linking problems that exist in the process of integration, such as those between trans-boundary rivers and lakes. IMWRRB emphasizes long-term and sustainable utilization of water resources in the preliminary stage of project development. It predicts the encroachment upon water-using rights of other users and the potential conflicts thereof. The core of IMWRRB lies in integrated operating skills for mitigating interest conflicts among different parties and enabling as many benefits as possible for those concerned. Therefore, the traditional mode emphasizing only partial benefit must be changed radically and transferred toward the orientation of win-win and synergism development. By recombining the organization and the interior structure adjustment of water resources management, negative effects, usually generated by weakening each other among different departments, are eliminated in order that the management of water resources develops favourably.

Organization Structure

The organization structure of management is centered in the Committee for Water Resources Management in River Basin, whose members include department of water conservancy, environmental protection, land and resources, agriculture, municipal construction, industry, as well as private enterprises and members of the public in each administrative region of a river basin. The committee takes charge of constituting laws, regulations, and polices for exploitation and protection of water resources in river basins, as well as negotiating and mitigating any conflicts that arise. The latter is the main responsibility of the committee. It can be seen that negotiation and mitigation of the conflicts are the core of IMWRRB, and consequently, it is also called water resources conflict management.

Technical framework

The technical framework deals with: 1) Analysis of the complex system of river basin water environments, 2) Identification (sources, scope, type of conflict, development and relationship type among all conflict parties), classification, registration, assessment and dispatch of internal and external conflicts that arise in the process of exploitation and utilization of water resources, 3) Establishment of conflict analysis model, including rule-based, constrainer-based, instance-based and negotiation theory-based conflict mitigation model. 4) Analysis of negotiation, mitigation and avoidance strategies of conflict, and decision support system of the integrated management including “Negotiation Support System” and “Information Distribution System.” 4) Coordination and integration among mitigation and avoidance strategies of conflicts, selection of alternative schemes, and determination of integrated management strategies. 5) Capacity building in policies, regulations, human resources, information and other aspects related to water resources conflict management.

Work Environment of water resources conflict in watershed

The work environment of water resources conflict in watersheds includes implemental organizations, regulations, and technical standards.

The implemental organization is a cooperative one that is constituted by the administrative departments involved in water utilization and protection, and is in charge of identification and assessment of conflicts and optimization of plans.

Appropriate regulations are important for successful conflict management in watersheds. The regulations must be made widely known to the implementation organization and their departments in order to ensure their justness and rationalization.

The rules and technical requirements must be strictly adhered to for efficient watershed conflict management.

CSCW platform of water resources conflict management in watershed

The Computer Support Cooperative Work (CSCW) platform is an Internet based computer aided decision support system of water resources conflict management in watersheds, included in all sorts of rules-based, instances-based, strategies-based and alternative schemes warehouses, and negotiation support systems. The CSCW platform consists of a virtual management workspace that links every organization and department of water resources conflict management in watershed through the internet. The decision-maker and each player of conflict may negotiate and coordinate in the virtual management space, filter the schemes and seek for the optimized strategies of mitigation conflicts with the negotiation support systems.

Conclusions

Water resources management must be unified from the perspective of entire river basins. However, uniform management of river basins does not necessarily equal concentrated management. There are fundamental differences between integrated management and concentrated management methods. The former effectively avoids various disadvantages of the latter caused by “centralization,” and therefore enables management of river basin water resources to be more equitable, democratic, efficient and adaptable for the trend of market economy.

The core of IMWRRB is conflict analysis, including identification and mitigation of conflicts. Therefore, IMWRRB is also entitled Water Resources Conflict Management. Conflict management of water resources is a new approach and involves the reformation of current management strategies used for watersheds. It aims at mitigating conflicts that traditional water resources management couldn't solve by using the guidance of the ideology of integrated management and the methodology of conflict management. In this paper, we developed a framework and provided an internet-based cooperative work environment for conflict management of river basins. It is an integrated approach of sustainable exploitation and utilization of water resources, and an effective solution for the conflicts among river districts and the different sectors. All of these could potentially enhance the efficiency of water resource management of river basins in China.

Acknowledgments

This study is funded by the National Basic Research Program of China (G1999043605 and 2006CB403403) and the National Natural Science Fund of China (70273005).

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.

References

Weihua, Zeng, Chingfeng, Zhang and Zhifeng, Yang.
2003
.
Contrast Analysis on Water Environmental Management at Home and Abroad
.
Chongqing Environmental Science
,
25
(
1
):
2
4
.
(in Chinese),
Baoren, Wei.
1998
.
Watershed Protection Method of USA(WPA)
.
Headway of Environmental Science
,
6
(
6
):
56
59
.
(in Chinese)
Weihua, Zeng, Chingfeng, Zhang and Zhifeng, Yang.
2002
.
Primary research on innovation of water environmental management system in China
.
3
(
12
):
92
95
.
(in Chinese)[CSA]
Mitchell, B.
1990
.
Integrated Water Management
,
London
:
Belhaven Press
.
Geldof, G. D.
1995
.
Policy Analysis and Complexity—A Non-Equilibrium Approach for Integrated Water Management
.
Water Science and Technology
,
31
(
8
):
301
309
.
Ngirane, B.
1991
.
Integrated Water Resources Planning as a Factor in Environmental pollution Control
.
Water Science & Technology
,
24
(
1
):
25
34
.