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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Water demand-management policy implementation issues in Beijing, China Tseng, Elisa


Many countries in the world suffer from water shortage. Continued population increases and overexploitation and pollution of existing water supplies mean that water shortage and its related consequences will likely increase worldwide. However, many believe that such negative prospects may be minimized with appropriate changes in present water management practices. A review of the existing literature indicates that water demand-management methods are in many cases more cost efficient and environmentally and socially less harmful than more traditional forms of water demand-management practises. For such reasons, water planners and managers in the developed world are beginning to appreciate the many advantages of adopting a comprehensive water demand-management program. Most developing countries, like China, remain unaware or unconvinced about the benefits of water demand-management practices and continue to rely upon unsustainable water development methods. This study investigates implementation issues related to current and potential water demand-management measures in the semi-arid, water deficient city of Beijing, China. Reviewed literature indicates that there exists various administrative, technical, economic, and social factors which presently affect all forms of environmental policy in China. This study, in its focus on water demand-management provides further insights into these issues in the water management area and also uncovers implementation issues specific to water demand-management policies. This qualitative study consists of empirical field research conducted in Beijing, China. This research investigates perceptions and opinions regarding Beijing's water issues and more specifically water demand-management issues in Beijing from the perspective of two groups: (1) university students and (2) government officials. Methods of investigation included distributing a survey to the university students and interviewing the government officials. Results of the survey indicates that students are concerned about the state of water quality and quantity in Beijing, although there are other societal problems students view as being more critical. Despite students revealing a lack of knowledge about some water issues in Beijing, the results reveal that increasing the use of popular media to raise comprehension about water issues and demand-management would likely produce positive results. Students in the survey also rate specific water demand-management strategies. Students tend to regard those measures in which the government rather than the individual is most financially and operationally responsible to be not only more effective at saving water but also more personally and socially fair. Interestingly, the results show that the notions of personal and social fairness were viewed as similar concepts. Results of the survey, official interviews, and additional information sources, reveal that there exists a a variety of factors constraining the effective implementation of water demand-management strategies in Beijing, China. These include constraints described in this study as "ideological" and administrative constraints. Demand-management measures including: water pricing, domestic wastewater recycling, water pressure reductions, plumbing codes, retrofit programs, water quotas, water restrictions, and education measures are all affected by such issues as well as other issues unique to each strategy. This study suggests that changes in Beijing's institutions and changes in society at large are needed in order that water demand—management become increasingly and more effectively integrated into water development practices in Beijing, China.

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