A study aimed at identifying barriers for more efficient water management was carried out on the Yongding river basin (the Yongding being a tributary of the Hai river) in northern China. The basin suffers from severe water scarcity, whereby agricultural water demand is the largest water user with about 66% of the total demand. The study identified two main policy problems: inadequate use of efficient irrigation technologies and a far too low agricultural water price. The study elaborated on policy instruments that could be used to overcome these two policy problems and assessed them using the Planning-Oriented Sustainability Assessment Framework (Starkl et al., 2013), which applies a novel application of the analytical hierarchy process to assess and interpret the individual preferences of interviewed stakeholders based on their experiences with the policy instruments. Respondents agreed that all the considered policy instruments can be implemented. Indeed, most of them are already implemented somewhere in China. However, respondents expect that high levels of effort are needed. For, while policy makers are perceived to accept these instruments, the public in rural communities may not be ready for change. Thus, the promotion of water saving technology appears likely to gain more public support than increased water prices.

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