Between project and region: The challenges of managing water in Shandong Province After the South-North Water Transfer Project
ABSTRACT: This paper examines the challenges that a region of China is facing as it seeks to integrate a centrally planned, hierarchically determined water transfer project into its own water supply systems. Water from China's South-North Water Transfer Project (SNWTP) has been available in Shandong since 2013. How has this province been managing the integration of SNWTP water into its water supply plans, and what challenges is it facing in the process? This paper demonstrates that Shandongʼs planners consistently overestimated future demand for water; this, together with the threats posed by reduced flows in the Yellow River, encouraged the Shandong government to support the building of the SNWTP. However, between the genesis of the plans for the SNWTP and its construction, the supply from the Yellow River became more reliable and the engineering systems and the efficiency of water use in Shandong Province itself has improved. As a result, by the time the SNWTP water became available, the province had little pressing need for it. Besides this reduced demand for SNWTP water, there have been difficulties in managing delivery of, and payment for, water within the province. These difficulties include unfinished local auxiliary projects that connect cities to the main canal, high water prices, conflict and lack of coordination among stakeholders, and ambiguous management policies. The result is that in 2016, on average, cities used less than 10% of their allocated quota of SNWTP water, while seven cities used none of their quota. The story of the SNWTP in Shandong is that of a centralised, hierarchically planned, fixed infrastructure with its deterministic projections coming into conflict with the fluidity of water demand and local political circumstances.
KEYWORDS: South-North Water Transfer Project (SNWTP), water demand, politics, planning, Shandong, China