Nature-based solutions for sustainable drinking water

Miyun Reservoir

Project title: Mega-cities and their watersheds: nature-based solutions for sustainable drinking water sources

Location: Miyun reservoir in Beijing, Jiaquan watershed in Guangdong Province, China

Duration: 2013 – 2016

Project background: China has made remarkable progress in sustaining high economic growth. However, it is facing major domestic environmental challenges. Water pollution, mainly caused by extensive pollutants discharged from industrial, domestic and agricultural sources, is a severe problem which has aggravated water scarcity in the country.

The per capita availability of water resources in China is just one-fourth of the world average. Furthermore, according to surveys conducted by relevant national authorities, 83% of surface water and 28% of ground water do not meet national standards. As a result, more than 400 of the 660 cities in China suffer from water shortages, and 30 of the 32 largest cities suffer from permanent water shortages.

This project was developed in response to these increasing challenges related to urban water supply.

By using natural infrastructure to deal with the water crisis, the project seeks to demonstrate ecological rehabilitation and protection of watersheds to ensure sustainable supplies of drinking water in China's cities. Together with project partners, IUCN will analyse 30-50 Chinese mega-cities and their drinking water sources and watersheds and implement pilot projects in the Miyun and Jiaquan watersheds, conducting analysis of ecosystem functions and services, especially for water supply and purification, and developing strategies to guide landscape restoration.

Objectives of the project: The project’s overarching objective is to secure long-term drinking water supply for 30 Chinese mega-cities through upstream water source protection, as a blueprint for current and future development options for China’s urban growth. Pilot projects will be implemented in the Miyun and Jiaquan watersheds, before expanding to another 5-10 Chinese mega-cities.

Specific objectives of the project include:

  • Conduct mapping, assessment, risk evaluation and strategic planning for pilot watersheds, according to ecosystem functions and services, based on the biophysical and socioeconomic surveys and assessments
  • Implement specific nature-based ecological restoration and non-pollution control measures in priority sub-basins in pilot watersheds, and undertake watershed health assessment and monitoring
  • Explore long term watershed management and financing mechanisms, including integrated watershed management, ecological compensation and payment for ecosystem services
  • Promote local capacity development 

Expected outputs:

  • Nature-based ecological restoration and pollution reduction approaches in Miyun and Jiaquan Watersheds demonstrate and measure improved water quality and watershed ecology
  • Nature-based drinking water source protection initiatives are undertaken by 5-10 mega-cities, among the 30 cities joining the Mega-city Partnerships for Drinking Water Source Protection

Donors:  EU-China Environmental Sustainability Programme (ESP)

Partners: Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences (RCEES/CAS); Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES); Beijing Forestry Society (BFS); Guangdong Academy of Forestry (GAF); Center for Rural Drinking Water Safety, Ministry of Water Resources; Danone Waters China; and South China Agriculture

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