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Water Law of the People's Republic of China - 1988

(Adopted by the 24th Session of the Standing Committee of the Sixth National People's Congress on January 21, 1988, promulgated by the Order No 61 of the President of the People's Republic of China on January 21, 1988, and effective on July 1, 1988)

Contents

Chapter I General Provisions
Chapter II
Development and Utilization
Chapter III
Protection of Water, Water Areas and Water Projects
Chapter IV
Management of the Use of Water
Chapter V
Flood Prevention and Flood Fighting
Chapter VI
Legal Liability
Chapter VII
Supplementary Provisions


Chapter I General Provisions

Article 1
For the purposes of rationally developing, utilizing and protecting water resources, preventing and controlling water disasters, fully exploiting the derivation of comprehensive benefits from water resources so as to satisfy the needs in national economic development and in the livelihood of the people, this Law is enacted.

Article 2
"Water resources" as the term is used in this Law includes surface water and groundwater. This Law must be observed in the development, utilization, protection and management of water resources and in the prevention and control of water disasters within the territory of the People's Republic of China.

Provisions on the development, utilization, protection and management of sea water shall be made separately.

Article 3
Water resources are owned by the State, that is, by the whole people.

The waters of ponds and reservoirs belonging to agricultural collective economic organizations shall be owned by the collectives.

The State protects the lawful rights and interests of units and individuals engaging in the development and utilization of water resources in accordance with law.

Article 4
The State encourages and supports various undertakings for the development and utilization of water resources and for the prevention and control of water disasters.

The development and utilization of water resources and the prevention and control of water disasters shall be carried out under comprehensive planning with all factors taken into consideration, and with emphasis on multipurpose use and on achieving maximum benefits so as to give full play to the multiple functions of water resources.

Article 5
The State protects water resources and adopts effective measures to preserve natural flora, plant trees and grow grass, conserve water sources, prevent and control soil erosion and improve the ecological environment.

Article 6
All units shall strengthen the prevention and control of water pollution so as to protect and improve water quality. People's governments at various levels shall, in accordance with the provisions of the Law on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, strengthen supervision over and management of the prevention and control of water pollution.

Article 7
The State carries out planning and requires strict economy in the use of water.

People's governments at various levels shall strengthen the management of the economical use of water. All units shall adopt advanced technology for the economical use of water, reduce water consumption and raise the frequency of the reuse of water.

Article 8
The people's governments at various levels shall award and commend those units and individuals that have made outstanding achievements in the development, utilization, protection and management of water resources, in the prevention and control of water disasters, in the economical use of water and in related scientific and technological research.

Article 9
The State adopts a system which combines unified administration and administration by various levels and by various departments over water resources.

The department of water administration of the State Council shall be in charge of the unified administration of water resources throughout the country.

Other relevant departments of the State Council shall, in accordance with the division of duties and powers designated by the State Council, be in charge of the administration of water resources related to them in coordination with the department of water administration of the State Council.

The departments of water administration and other relevant departments of the local people's governments at or above the county level shall be in charge of the administration of water resources related to them in accordance with the division of duties and powers designated by the people's governments at the corresponding level.

 

Chapter II Development and Utilization

Article 10
Any development and utilization of water resources shall be subject to a comprehensive scientific survey and an investigation and assessment. The comprehensive scientific survey and the investigation and assessment of water resources throughout the country shall be carried out by the department of water administration of the State Council jointly with other departments concerned.

Article 11
The development and utilization of water resources as well as the prevention and control of water disasters shall be planned in a unified way according to the river basins or regions. The plans are divided into comprehensive plans and special plans.

Comprehensive plans for major river basins designated by the State shall be made by the department of water administration of the State Council jointly with the relevant departments and with the people's governments of the relevant provinces, autonomous regions or municipalities directly under the Central Government, and shall be submitted to the State Council for approval. Comprehensive plans for other river basins or regions shall be made by the departments of water administration of local people's governments at or above the county level jointly with the relevant departments and local authorities, and shall be submitted to the people's governments at the corresponding level for approval and to the department of water administration at the next higher level for the record. Comprehensive plans shall be coordinated with the national land plan and shall give consideration the needs in various regions and trades.

Special plans for the prevention of floods, the control of water-logging, irrigation, navigation, urban and industrial water supply, hydro-electric power generation, bamboo or log rafting, fishery, water quality protection, hydrologic surveys, the general prospecting and dynamic monitoring of groundwater shall be formulated respectively by the competent departments of the people's governments at or above the county level and shall be submitted to the people's governments at the corresponding level for approval.

The approved plans shall serve as the bases for the development and utilization of water resources as well as the prevention and control of water disasters. Any amendment to an approved plan must be subject to examination and approval by the organ that originally approved the plan.

Article 12
No unit or individual may, while channeling, storing or discharging water, infringe upon public interests or the lawful rights and interests of other people.

Article 13
The development and utilization of water resources shall conform to the overall arrangement for the prevention of floods, follow the principle of promoting benefits while eliminating disasters, and take into consideration the interests of the upstream and downstream areas, of the areas on both sides of the rivers and of all regions concerned so as to exploit the comprehensive benefits of water resources.

Article 14
The development and utilization of water resources shall first satisfy the needs of the urban and rural residents for their domestic use of water and give overall consideration to the agricultural and industrial needs for water as well as to the needs of navigation. In areas where the water sources are insufficient, the scale of the urban area and the development of industrial and agricultural undertakings which use a large amount of water shall be restricted.

Article 15
All areas shall, according to their respective water and soil resources, develop irrigation, drainage and water and soil conservation to promote the stable and high agricultural yields.

In areas where the water sources are insufficient, those irrigation methods which make for an economical use of water shall be adopted.

In areas which are prone to salinization-alkalization and water-logging, measures shall be taken to control and lower the groundwater level.

Article 16
The State encourages the development and utilization of hydraulic power potentials. On rivers rich with hydraulic power potentials, multipurpose cascade development shall be carried out in a planned way.

In the development of hydropower stations, the ecological environment shall be protected, and the needs for flood control, water supply, irrigation, navigation, bamboo and log rafting and fishery shall be taken into consideration.

Article 17
The State protects and encourages the development of water transport resources. When permanent dams and sluice-gates are built on rivers which are navigable or suitable for bamboo and log rafting, the construction unit must at the same time build facilities for the passage of ships and for bamboo and log rafting or, after approval by a department authorized by the State Council, take other remedial measures. The construction unit must also make adequate arrangements for navigation and bamboo and log rafting during the construction period and the initial water-filling period, and bear the expenses incurred thereby.

Where a non-navigable river or man-made waterway becomes navigable after a dam or sluice-gate is built, the construction unit shall at the same time build facilities for the passage of ships or reserve sites for such facilities. The expenses needed for such facilities shall, except as otherwise provided for by the State, be borne by the transport department concerned.

Where any existing dam or sluice-gate hinders navigation, the people's government at or above the county level shall order the original construction unit to take remedial measures within a prescribed time limit.

Article 18
Where the building of a dam or sluice-gate on the migration route of fish, shrimp or crabs has a serious impact on fishery resources, the construction unit shall build facilities for their passage or adopt other remedial measures.

Article 19
The building of any dam and sluice-gate, bridge, wharf or any structure which blocks, crosses or borders a river channel, and the laying of a pipeline or a cable which crosses a river, must be in conformity with the standards for the prevention of floods and navigation and other related technical requirements set by the State.

Where the building of any of the structures or facilities referred to in the preceding paragraph requires the extension, modification, removal or destruction of the original structures or facilities, the unit constructing the new project shall bear the expenses for extension or modification and the expenses for the compensation of losses, unless the original structures or facilities were built in violation of the relevant regulations.

Article 20
Where the building of any water project or any other construction project has an adverse effect on the current use of water for irrigation, the existing source of water supply or the present flow of the navigation channel, the unit constructing the project shall adopt remedial measures or otherwise make compensation.

Article 21
Where an inter-basin diversion project is to be built, an overall plan and a scientific evaluation must be provided, and consideration given to the demand for water in the basin which supplies the water and in the basin which receives it, while adverse effects on the ecological environment shall be avoided.

Article 22
The building of any water project must conform to the procedures for capital construction and the other relevant provisions stipulated by the State. If a project involves the interests of other regions and trades, the construction unit must first solicit opinions from the regions and departments concerned and, in accordance with the relevant provisions, report the project to the people's government at the higher level or the competent department concerned for approval.

Article 23
Where a water project to be built by the State requires the resettlement of inhabitants, the local people's government shall be responsible for making proper arrangements for the livelihood and production of the inhabitants to be resettled. The funds needed for the resettlement of inhabitants shall be included in the investment plan for the project, and the resettlement shall be completed within the construction stage on schedule.

 

Chapter III Protection of Water, Water Areas and Water Projects

Article 24
In any river, lake, reservoir or canal, no person may abandon or pile objects which block navigation or the passage of flood water, or plant trees or grow crops of a long-stalk variety which block the passage of flood water.

In any navigable channel, no person may abandon any sunken boat, lay any fishing gear which blocks navigation, or grow aquatic plants.

No person may erect any building in a riverbed or in flood land without the approval of the competent department concerned.

Anyone who wishes to mine for sand and gravel or placer gold within the extent of a river course through which flood water passes or into which water from water-logged areas is drained, or within the extent of a navigable river, must apply to the department of river administration for approval, and must conduct the mining within the approved confines and in conformity with the approved operation procedures. Where the mining relates to a navigable river, it shall be subject to approval by the department of river administration and the department of navigation.

Article 25
The drawing of groundwater must, based on the prospect and assessment of water resources, be subject to a unified plan and a strengthened supervision and management. In areas where too much groundwater has been drawn, a strict control shall be imposed on the drawing and effective measures taken to protect the groundwater resources and to prevent the subsidence of the ground.

Article 26
Where mining or the construction of underground projects, because of water drainage, results in a lowering of the groundwater level, the depletion of groundwater or the subsidence of the ground and causes losses to the livelihood and production of units or individuals, the mining unit or the construction unit shall take remedial measures and make compensation therefor.

Article 27
Reclaiming parts of a lake for use as farmland shall be prohibited. Reclaiming parts of a river for use as farmland shall also be prohibited. Where reclamation is necessary, a scientific assessment must carried out and approval must be obtained from a people's government at or above the provincial level.

Article 28
The State protects water projects and related facilities such as dikes and bank revetments, and protects flood prevention facilities, hydrologic monitoring facilities, hydro-geologic monitoring facilities, and navigation facilities and aids. No unit or individual may seize or destroy such facilities.

Article 29
Any State-owned water project shall have a zone for its management and protection, to be designated and declared by a people's government at or above the county level in accordance with the approved design and State provisions.

Any collectively-owned water project shall have a zone for its protection, to be designated and declared in accordance with stipulations made by the people's government of the relevant province, autonomous region or municipality directly under the Central Government.

Within the protection zone for a water project, any act of blasting, drilling a well, quarrying rock or collecting earth, which endangers the safety of the water project, shall be prohibited.

 

Chapter IV Management of the Use of Water

Article 30
The long-term plan for the demand for and supply of water of the entire country and those of regions covering different provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government shall be formulated by the department of water administration jointly with the other relevant departments of the State Council and submitted to the planning department of the State Council for approval. A local long-term plan for the demand for and supply of water shall, on the basis of the long-term plan for the demand for and supply of water made by the department of water administration of the people's government at the next higher level and the actual local conditions, be formulated by the department of water administration jointly with the other relevant departments of a local people's government at or above the county level, and shall be submitted to the planning department of the people's government at the corresponding level for approval.

Article 31
The regulation and storage of the run-off and the allocation of water shall take into account the demand for water in upstream and downstream areas and on both banks of a river and also the need for navigation, bamboo and log rafting and fishery and for the protection of the ecological environment.

A plan for the allocation of water involving different administrative divisions shall be formulated by the department of water administration of the people's government at the next higher level after soliciting the opinions of the local people's governments concerned, and shall be implemented after approval by the people's government at the corresponding level.

Article 32
The State adopts a license system on direct drawing of water from subterranean streams, rivers or lakes. However, the drawing of water for household use or for livestock and poultry to drink, or the drawing of water in small amount for other purposes is not subject to the application for such a license.

The steps, the scope and the measures for implementing the system of water-drawing license shall be stipulated by the State Council.

Article 33
Where it is necessary to apply for a water-drawing license for a new construction project, an extension project or a reconstruction project, the construction unit shall, while submitting the design for the project, contain written comments from the organ in charge of examining applications for the drawing of water.

Article 34
Anyone who uses water provided by a water-supply project shall pay a water fee to the supplying unit in accordance with the relevant provisions.

Any unit which directly draws groundwater in an urban area shall be charged a water resources fee. The collection of such fees from other units or individuals drawing water directly from subterranean streams, rivers or lakes shall be decided by the people's governments of provinces, autonomous regions or municipalities directly under the Central Government.

Measures for the collection of water fees and water resources fees shall be stipulated by the State Council.

Article 35
Any dispute concerning water between different districts shall be handled through consultation in the spirit of mutual understanding and mutual accommodation as well as the spirit of solidarity and cooperation; Where such consultations fail to settle a dispute, the dispute shall be handled by the people's government at the next higher level. prior to a settlement of the dispute, no party may build any project to drain, block, divert or store water within a certain area on either side of the common boundary defined by the State, and no party may unilaterally alter the existing water regime, unless an agreement is reached between the parties concerned or an approval is granted by the people's government at the next higher level.

Article 36
Any dispute concerning water between units, between individuals or between units and individuals shall be resolved through consultation or mediation. Where a party is unwilling to have the dispute resolved through consultation or mediation, or the consultation or mediation fails, the party may request the people's government at or above the county level or the competent department authorized by such a government to handle the dispute, or may directly initiate legal proceedings in a people's court. Where a party is dissatisfied with the decision made by the people's government concerned or the competent department authorized by such a government, the party may initiate legal proceedings in a people's court within fifteen days of receiving the notification on the decision.

Prior to a settlement of the dispute, no party may unilaterally alter the existing water regime.

Article 37
When handling any dispute concerning water, the people's government at or above the county level, or the competent department authorized by such a government, shall have the power to take temporary measures with which the parties must comply.

 

Chapter V Flood Prevention and Flood Fighting

Article 38
The people's governments at all levels shall strengthen their leadership and take effective measures to prevent and fight floods. It is the duty of every unit and individual to participate in the prevention of and the fight against floods.

Article 39
The flood prevention headquarters under the people's governments at or above the county level shall exercise unified command over the work of preventing and fighting floods.

In case of a flood emergency, the flood prevention headquarters shall have the power to requisition materials and equipment and employ personnel within their jurisdiction, which shall be returned or adequately compensated for without delay after the flood subsides.

Article 40
The people's governments at or above the county level shall, on the basis of river basin plans and in accordance with the principle of ensuring defense at the major points and giving consideration to ordinary ones, formulate schemes for the prevention of floods, in which the standards and measures for the prevention of floods shall be specified. The schemes for the prevention of floods along major rivers throughout the country shall be formulated by the Central Flood Prevention Headquarters and be submitted to the State Council for approval.

After a scheme for the prevention of floods is formulated and approved, the people's governments concerned must implement such scheme.

Article 41
Along floodways and in flood detention basins and flood storage basins, the utilization of land and the various construction projects must meet the requirements for the prevention of floods.

Article 42
People in a downstream area may not hinder by blocking the flow of the flood water or excess water discharged according to the natural flow trend or the design standards of flood prevention or flood drainage projects, or an approved flood fighting plan, or reduce the carrying capacity of the river, while people in an upstream area may not increase without authorization the flow discharged downstream.

Article 43
In case of a flood emergency, flood prevention headquarters at different levels may, within their jurisdiction, take measures to divert or detain the flood pursuant to the approved plans. Where these measures are detrimental to the adjoining districts, the adoption of such measures must be reported to the flood prevention headquarters at the next higher level for approval, and the districts concerned shall be notified in advance.

The State Council and the people's governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government shall separately formulate special administrative measures for the safety, evacuation, livelihood, production, rehabilitation and compensation for losses for the inhabitants in the flood detention basins and the flood storage basins within their respective jurisdiction.

 

Chapter VI Legal Liability

Article 44
Whoever, in violation of this Law, draws, intercepts, blocks or discharges water and thereby causes obstruction or losses to others shall stop his acts of infringement, remove the obstruction and compensate for the losses.

Article 45
Whoever, in violation of this Law, commits any of the following acts shall be ordered, by the department of water administration or the competent department concerned of the relevant local people's government at or above the county level, to stop his illegal act and clear away the obstacles or take other remedial measures within the specified time limit, and may be fined concurrently; the person who is held responsible may be given an administrative penalty by the unit to which he belongs or by the competent authorities at a higher level:

(1). abandoning or piling objects which obstruct navigation or the passage of flood, or planting trees and growing crops of a long-stalk variety which obstruct the passage of flood in any river, lake, reservoir or canal, or abandoning sunken vessels, laying fishing gear which obstructs navigation, or growing aquatic plants in any navigable river;

(2). erecting buildings in any riverbed or flood land without approval;

(3). mining for sand and gravel or placer gold in any river course or navigable river without approval or not in conformity with the approved scope and operation procedures; or

(4). reclaiming, in violation of the provisions of Article 27 of this Law, parts of any lake or river for use as farmland.

Article 46
Whoever, in violation of this Law, commits any of the following acts shall be ordered, by the department of water administration or the competent department concerned of the relevant local people's government at or above the county level, to stop his illegal act and take remedial measures and may be fined concurrently; the person who is held responsible may be given an administrative penalty by the unit to which he belongs or by the competent authorities at a higher level and, where a crime is constituted, he shall be prosecuted for criminal responsibility in accordance with the Criminal Law:

(1). constructing any water project or dredging any river or course of navigation without authorization; or

(2). increasing, in violation of the provisions of Article 42 of this Law, the discharge of flood or drainage of excess water downstream or hindering the discharge of flood or drainage of excess water from upstream without authorization.

Article 47
Whoever, in violation of this Law, commits any of the following acts shall be ordered, by the department of water administration or the competent department concerned of the relevant local people's government at or above the county level, to stop his illegal act, compensate for the losses arising therefrom and take remedial measures, and may be fined concurrently; where a penalty for violation of public security should be given, the person shall be given a penalty in accordance with the Regulations on Administrative Penalties for Public Security; where a crime is constituted, the person shall be prosecuted for criminal responsibility in accordance with the Criminal Law:

(1). damaging any water project or related facilities such as dikes and bank revetments, damaging any flood prevention facilities, hydrologic monitoring facilities, hydro-geologic monitoring facilities, or navigation facilities or aids; or

(2). carrying out, within the protection zone for a water project, any act of blasting, digging a well, quarrying rock, or collecting earth, which endangers the safety of the project.

Article 48
If any party is not satisfied with the decision on an administrative penalty, he may, within fifteen days of receiving the notification on the penalty, apply for reconsideration with the department at the level next higher to the department that made the decision on the penalty. If the party still disagree with the decision made after such reconsideration, he may institute legal proceedings in a people's court within fifteen days of receiving the decision on the reconsideration.

The party may also directly institute legal proceedings to a people's court within fifteen days of receiving the notification on the penalty. If the said party neither applies for reconsideration nor institutes legal proceedings in the people's court within the time limit nor complies with the decision on the penalty, the department that made the decision on the penalty shall apply to the people's court for compulsory enforcement.

If any party is not satisfied with a penalty for violation of public security, the case shall be handled according to the Regulations on Administrative Penalties for Public Security.

Article 49
Whoever steals or forcibly seizes the supplies for the prevention of floods or materials and equipment for the building of water projects, or whoever embezzles or misappropriates State funds and materials for the relief of disasters, for use in flood emergencies, for the prevention of floods or for the resettlement of inhabitants, shall be prosecuted for criminal responsibility in accordance with the Criminal Law.

Article 50
Any functionary of a department of water administration, of the competent department or of a unit managing a water project, who neglects his duty, abuses his power, engages in malpractice for personal gains or commits fraudulent acts, shall be given administrative penalty by the unit to which he belongs or by the competent department at a higher level; whoever causes heavy losses to public property or to the interests of the State and the people shall be prosecuted for criminal responsibility in accordance with the Criminal Law.

 

Chapter VII Supplementary Provisions

Article 51
Where any international treaty or agreement relating to international or border rivers or lakes, concluded or acceded to by the People's Republic of China, contains provisions differing from those in the laws of the People's Republic of China, the provisions of the international treaty or agreement shall prevail, except those provisions on which the People's Republic of China has declared reservations.

Article 52
The State Council may, in accordance with this Law, formulate rules for its implementation.

The standing committees of the people's congresses of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government may, in accordance with this Law, formulate measures for its implementation.

Article 53
This Law shall come into force on July 1, 1988.

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