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The China Law Center Co-Hosts Workshop on Water Conservation

The China Law Center sponsored an “International Workshop on Water Conservation” with China’s State Council Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA) on October 24-25, 2006 in Beijing.  The event brought together a group of international experts and Chinese officials and scholars to discuss efforts to design a new water conservation policy in China. 

The OLA, the law drafting department of China’s executive branch, is considering a new set of regulations to address China’s worsening water crisis.  China’s per capita water resources are only one-fourth of that of the United States, and high population and rapid economic development are putting increasing demands on limited supply.  Groundwater is being pumped at an unsustainable rate, and over 70 percent of the water in China’s five major rivers is unsuitable for human contact.  Research suggests that, absent a new approach, by 2030 China will face a water deficit of 50 billion cubic meters. 

“Reforming the water system is clearly one of the most important issues for China’s continued development,” said Mark Wu ’07, who helped the China Law Center organize the workshop.  (Before entering Yale Law School, Wu worked as a World Bank economist on China water issues.)  “The existing legal framework for water management and conservation has not been sufficient to stop the slide toward crisis.  This makes policy efforts even more pressing.”

  Mark Wu '07 at the workshop

The China Law Center’s staff, joined by an invited group of water policy experts, shared opinions on the draft regulations and related issues with their Chinese counterparts during the two-day workshop.  The delegation included Gregory Hicks (Yale ’72), Professor at the University of Washington Law School; Shimon Tal, former Water Commissioner of Israel; Lee Travers, Manager of the Urban and Water Sector of the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Infrastructure and Energy Department; and Mary Ann Dickinson, Executive Director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council.

The Chinese participants were extremely open about the challenges they face, and the frank discussion helped clarify the steps that need to be taken.  Along with the legislative drafters from the State Council, the workshop included participants from all of the key ministries involved in setting China’s water policies.  In addition, several of China’s leading experts on water from its universities and think tanks contributed to the debate.  Based on the input provided at the workshop, the OLA will continue to revise its draft water conservation regulation in the upcoming months.  The China Law Center plans to continue to play a role as the legislation moves forward.

For Chinese coverage of the workshop, click here.