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Water rights are the embodiment of water resources in law or economics. Considering that water resources have the dual nature of water quality and quantity, namely that water resources can only be available with a certain water quality, so water resources regardless of water quality cannot be regarded as resources. Also in the WRA process, the water quality and quantity of the assigned water rights to different users should meet their needs. To facilitate the management of water resources, water function zoning is implemented, and this process will result in a positive effect for controlling emissions and protecting the water supply source. The third red line, the red line restriction of pollutants in water function areas, is mainly designed to control water quality in two ways, one of which is the control of the amount of sewage into the river within a water function area to avoid local water pollution. The other method is having the water quality concentration of control sections be lower than the target concentration stipulated by the MEP. The concentration of the different kinds of pollutants going into the river should also be controlled to within the corresponding water quality standards, with industrial users prohibited from dumping excess emissions into the water. The standard rate of water function area in different administrative areas of China can be seen in Table 2. These two aspects can induce an improvement in the efficiency of wastewater treatment, especially for industrial users. The first step of implementing the third red line is to establish water quality monitoring stations in various river sections to enhance water quality monitoring, and it being forbidden to discharge sewage into protected water resource areas. The government should then establish a mechanism with effective supervision and management to enforce these measures to prevent the illegal discharge of sewage. Enterprises can be encouraged to improve water purification technologies, transform water supply pipeline networks, and establish and perfect emergency plans for the water supply (Dou et al. 2014). It is imperative to improve WRS legislation, which is a prerequisite for China to execute its construction, the improvement of which plays an important role in water resource development, utilization and protection. These laws are also necessary to effectively solve current water problems with regard to corruption, intergovernmental rivalries and illegal sewage discharge from enterprises. Given that preserving water resources and the ecological environment has become a major challenge for the construction of the WRS, the central and provincial financial administration departments should significantly increase subsidies to water rights pilot programs, and municipal and country-level governments should effectively expand their investments in the construction of the water market and encourage water users to save water with the intention of protecting the environment. Greater efforts must be made regarding the construction of the WRS, which would facilitate a shift in the water resources management mode.

Table 2

The standard rate control of water function area in different administrative areas of China

Administrative areaThe standard rate of water function area (%)Administrative areaThe standard rate of water function area (%)
Beijing 52.4 Hubei 69 
Tianjin 60.3 Hunan 72.8 
Hebei 67 Guangdong 66.8 
Shanxi 46 Guangxi 92.4 
Inner Mongolia 68.6 Hainan 88.9 
Liaoning 66.5 Chongqing 83.5 
Jilin 58.7 Sichuan 50.4 
Heilongjiang 51.5 Guizhou 60.9 
Shanghai 47.9 Yunnan 96.3 
Jiangsu 58.5 Tibet 61.6 
Zhejiang 67.5 Shaanxi 67.4 
Anhui 73.8 Gansu 76.8 
Fujian 87.2 Qinghai 45.9 
Jiangxi 71.4 Ningxia 87.1 
Shandong 48.1 Xinjiang 77.9 
Henan 80.1 In total 62.4 
Administrative areaThe standard rate of water function area (%)Administrative areaThe standard rate of water function area (%)
Beijing 52.4 Hubei 69 
Tianjin 60.3 Hunan 72.8 
Hebei 67 Guangdong 66.8 
Shanxi 46 Guangxi 92.4 
Inner Mongolia 68.6 Hainan 88.9 
Liaoning 66.5 Chongqing 83.5 
Jilin 58.7 Sichuan 50.4 
Heilongjiang 51.5 Guizhou 60.9 
Shanghai 47.9 Yunnan 96.3 
Jiangsu 58.5 Tibet 61.6 
Zhejiang 67.5 Shaanxi 67.4 
Anhui 73.8 Gansu 76.8 
Fujian 87.2 Qinghai 45.9 
Jiangxi 71.4 Ningxia 87.1 
Shandong 48.1 Xinjiang 77.9 
Henan 80.1 In total 62.4 

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