The new development of water law in China

Patricia Wouters, Desheng Hu, Jiebin Zhang, A. Dan Tarlock, Philip Andrews-Speed

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    China, the most populous country in the world, faces critical water shortages. The country's rapidly increasing population now totals an estimated 1.3 billion people, thus aggravating the existing water crisis. Currently, China receives only one-fourth of the world's average per capita renewable water supplies, but still experiences extreme water deficiencies. Thus, the country must address serious challenges. On August 29, 2002, at the Twenty-ninth Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Ninth National People's Congress ("NPC"), the NPC revised the 1988 China Water Law and adopted the 2002 China Water Law. The new water legislation represents a milestone in the evolution of country's water law. The 2002 China Water Law significantly revises its predecessor, the 1988 China Water Law. As a forward looking piece of legislation, the new law seeks to address existing serious problems and to anticipate future water concerns. This article examines the policy behind the adoption of the 2002 China Water Law, discusses key issues related to its implementation, and identifies important problems that continue to exist. The following discussion centers on whether the new legislation provides an adequate framework to ensure the reasonable, equitable, and sustainable utilization of water resources, within a framework that ensures effective implementation. The article begins by summarizing China's most important water issues and provides an overview of the 1988 China Water Law. Next, the article explains the legal and institutional context of the 2002 China Water Law. In order to test the effectiveness of the new law, the authors use the Tarim River Basin as a case study for analysis. From this evaluation, the authors conclude that the 2002 water law suffers from some serious shortcomings and recommend changes to the legal and institutional arrangements.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)243-308
    Number of pages66
    JournalUniversity of Denver Water Law Review
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • China
    • Water law


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