Chishui Waterfall about an hour outside of Chishui city, China. © Kevin Arnold

Stories in China

Water Security in China

Water funds allow downstream investors to support upstream land conservation and restoration.

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Water is our most precious resource, and its quality is directly dependent on the landscapes through which the water flows. Good land management around our water sources can improve water quality, restore reliable water flows and bring added benefits, such as improved agricultural productivity, to local ecosystems and communities.

Nearly a quarter of China’s urban residents lack access to proper drinking water and sanitation facilities. Water scarcity and pollution is a grave issue, and over half of China’s water pollution comes from land use and degradation. Fertilizers, pesticides and livestock waste are carried into lakes, rivers, wetlands and coastal waters throughout the country.

To sustainably reduce this pollution, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in China is using water funds to allow downstream investors—primarily large businesses and government agencies—to support upstream land conservation and restoration. By investing upstream, cities can save significantly on annual water treatment costs and can lower their carbon footprint, protect critical ecosystems and build healthier, more resilient communities in the face of climate change.

TNC has supported three pilot projects to illustrate how water funds can work to secure clean urban water sources, including two water funds in Zhejiang Province—at Longwu Reservoir and Qiandao Lake—which supply the Hangzhou metropolitan area (population 21 million), and one in the Dongjiang River watershed in Guangdong Province, which supports a major source of drinking water for 40 million residents of Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and other urban areas.

Longwu Water Fund Longwu Reservoir is located northeast of Huanghu town, Yuhang district, Zhejiang Province and supplies drinking water to two villages of approximately 3,000 people. Although this water fund is small, it represents the first of its kind as an innovative collective action case in the China context.