We compare water governance between China and India in terms of water laws, policies and administration based on a survey of 182 water experts from 19 provinces/states. We find that water governance in China is consistently stronger compared with India across 17 indicators of water governance. We speculate that these variations could be attributed to differences in political, legal and administrative systems as well as levels of economic development and political system.

Introduction

Academic research shows that improving water governance holds the key to improving water security in developing countries (Global Water Partnership, 2000; Rogers & Hall, 2003; Asian Development Bank, 2004; Gopalakrishnan et al., 2004; Kashyap, 2004; Saleth & Dinar, 2005; Hoekstra & Chapagain, 2006; Rijsberman & Zwane, 2008; Briscoe, 2009; Biswas, 2010; Tortajada, 2010; Araral & Yu, 2013). However, comparative empirical studies on water governance are rare and there is little academic consensus on the scope, definition and measurement of water governance.

In this paper, we compare water laws, policies and administration in China and India based on a survey of 182 water sector professionals (93 from China and 89 from India) using a framework developed by Saleth & Dinar (2005) and refined and extended by Araral & Yu (2013) for 17 countries in Asia-Pacific and Araral and Wang (forthcoming) for nine provinces in China. Existing comparative empirical literature sheds little light on water governance in China and India.

Our findings reveal systematic and significant differences in water governance between China and India in terms of water laws, policies and administration. Our study provides a more nuanced account of these differences, and offers some hypotheses to explain these differences and how they matter to water sector performance in both countries. We conclude that China has done much better in terms of water governance when compared to India. Although a large part of the differences can be attributed to differences in political, legal and administrative systems as well as the level of economic development and growth, there are lessons that India can learn from China and vice versa.

The next part of the paper discusses the challenges to water governance in China and India. The third part discusses the literature on water governance. The fourth part presents the framework, data and methodology for this paper. Part five presents the survey findings and analysis, while part six concludes.

Challenges to water governance in China and India

China and India overview

Table 1 compares the key characteristics of China and India. Although the population of both countries is comparable, China is ahead of India in key determinants of development such as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, access to improved water source and sanitation.

Table 1.

Comparison of China and India on selected parameters.

IndiaChina
Total population (in billion [109]) (2013) 1.25 1.4 
Per capita income (nominal, in USD) (2013) 1,500 6,800 
Per capita income (PPP) (2013) 5,400 11,900 
GDP growth % (2003–2013) 7.6% 10.3% 
Renewable internal fresh water resources (billion cubic metres [1012], 2013) 1,446 2,813 
Renewable per capita fresh water resources (cubic metres, 2013) 1,184 2,093 
Total annual freshwater withdrawals (billion cubic metres [1012], 2013) 761 554.1 
Annual freshwater withdrawals – industry (% of total withdrawals) 23 
Annual freshwater withdrawals – agriculture (% of total withdrawals) 90 65 
Annual freshwater withdrawals – domestic (% of total withdrawals) 12 
% of population with improved water source (urban) 97 98 
% of population with access to improved water source (rural) 91 85 
Non-revenue watera (%) 41 (2009) 21 (2012) 
% of population with access to improved sanitation facilities (urban) 60 74 
Total % of population with sanitation facilities 36 65 
Authority over water issues State Government Central/Provincial Government 
Water tariff Determination is not uniform Determination is not uniform 
Water governance challenges Overconsumption (rapid urbanization); severe water pollution and inefficient use/underpricing/lack of financial resources for water projects Imbalance in water supply and demand; overconsumption (rapid urbanization, 60% rate); severe water pollution and inefficient use 
Major solutions to water challenges Public–private partnerships for urban water supply; river clean up (Ganges); major sanitation programs; rain water harvesting; small dam projects Construction of large dams and large water diversion canals by state water corporations; use water tax (North South Project) and cost recovery; large scale water treatment projects (USD330 billion) through PPP 
Political economy of water Fragmented/weak water agencies; large number of veto players; top political leaders have no formal education on water issues; water issues ebb and flow with the electoral cycle Centralized/powerful hydro-industrial complex; top political leaders are trained in water engineering; water issues are consistently on the top of the political agenda 
IndiaChina
Total population (in billion [109]) (2013) 1.25 1.4 
Per capita income (nominal, in USD) (2013) 1,500 6,800 
Per capita income (PPP) (2013) 5,400 11,900 
GDP growth % (2003–2013) 7.6% 10.3% 
Renewable internal fresh water resources (billion cubic metres [1012], 2013) 1,446 2,813 
Renewable per capita fresh water resources (cubic metres, 2013) 1,184 2,093 
Total annual freshwater withdrawals (billion cubic metres [1012], 2013) 761 554.1 
Annual freshwater withdrawals – industry (% of total withdrawals) 23 
Annual freshwater withdrawals – agriculture (% of total withdrawals) 90 65 
Annual freshwater withdrawals – domestic (% of total withdrawals) 12 
% of population with improved water source (urban) 97 98 
% of population with access to improved water source (rural) 91 85 
Non-revenue watera (%) 41 (2009) 21 (2012) 
% of population with access to improved sanitation facilities (urban) 60 74 
Total % of population with sanitation facilities 36 65 
Authority over water issues State Government Central/Provincial Government 
Water tariff Determination is not uniform Determination is not uniform 
Water governance challenges Overconsumption (rapid urbanization); severe water pollution and inefficient use/underpricing/lack of financial resources for water projects Imbalance in water supply and demand; overconsumption (rapid urbanization, 60% rate); severe water pollution and inefficient use 
Major solutions to water challenges Public–private partnerships for urban water supply; river clean up (Ganges); major sanitation programs; rain water harvesting; small dam projects Construction of large dams and large water diversion canals by state water corporations; use water tax (North South Project) and cost recovery; large scale water treatment projects (USD330 billion) through PPP 
Political economy of water Fragmented/weak water agencies; large number of veto players; top political leaders have no formal education on water issues; water issues ebb and flow with the electoral cycle Centralized/powerful hydro-industrial complex; top political leaders are trained in water engineering; water issues are consistently on the top of the political agenda 

Sources: World Bank, IBNET; World Economic Outlook Database, International Monetary Fund, October 2012.

PPP, purchasing power parity.

aNon-revenue water is water that is lost before reaching the end consumer. The water can be lost due to issues such as faulty pipes or theft.

China and India are both facing a water crisis because of overconsumption, pollution and inefficient use. In China, The Economist magazine reports (October 2013) that major watersheds have shrunk by more than half from 50,000 in the 1950s to less than 23,000 today due to a rapid rate of urbanization, which is projected to hit 60% of the population by 2020.

Severe pollution is another common major problem for both countries. For instance, in China, water from one of its major rivers – the Yellow River Basin – has been badly polluted by more than 4,000 petrochemical firms. Water quality is so bad that it is no longer fit even for agriculture. In India, the Ganges River is one of the most polluted in the world. The lack of sanitation in much of India has severely polluted its groundwater. Eighty percent of all sewage flows directly into Indian rivers untreated1.

Moreover, only half of water sources in Chinese cities are safe to drink while more than half of the groundwater in its northern provinces cannot be used for industry. About 70% of the water is unfit for human consumption. In India, almost 70% of the surface water resources are contaminated through biological and toxic pollutants2.

Inefficient water use is a common problem as well. In India, non-revenue water is 41% on a national average compared to 21% in China. Agriculture consumes 90% of India's fresh water, aggravated by a policy of subsidizing fuel for irrigation pumps, which is rapidly depleting India's groundwater. In China, industries consume about 23% of all fresh water supply.

Added to this woe is the uneven distribution of water resources in both countries. In China, about half of its population and two thirds of its farmlands are found in its arid northern provinces, which however only have 20% of its water resources. India has 4% of the world's fresh water resources but 15% of the world's population.

Addressing water challenges

China's main approach to solving its water (and energy) crisis is to build more large dams and diversion canals. Some 22,000 medium to large sized dams (at least 15 metres) have been built since the 1950s. This is roughly half the world's current total dams. The world's largest dams are found in China. In addition, some 130 large dams are in various phases of development – from planning to construction – along the Yangtze and its tributaries, the Mekong and Brahmaputra, all flowing from the Tibetan Plateau. China has the world's largest dam – the Three Gorges Dam –with a capacity 10 times that of the Hoover Dam and the world's largest water transfer project – the 2,700-mile North–South Water Transfer Project. The main driver of this dam building frenzy is to reach the goal of generating 15% of China's energy needs from renewable sources such as dams (from the current level of 9%) as well as to supply water to agriculture and rapidly expanding cities.

In contrast in India, dam building has been a much more difficult undertaking for a variety of reasons. First, state governments do not have the same capacity – engineering, financial, administrative and political will – to undertake massive dam building projects. Second, India's democratic system of governance means that there are far more veto players in the approval process for dam building, i.e. central vs. state and local government, parliament, courts, inter-governmental agencies, opposition parties, media, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), local communities. Third, in India, in most cases where there are conflicts among different states for water rights and among different user groups (farmers, urban users, industries), the central government has little legal power to resolve these conflicts because water rights and authority is conferred to the states and not the central government. In contrast in China, the central government can impose its authority to resolve these conflicts.

Apart from the effects of different political structures between India (decentralized) and China (centralized), perhaps one of the most important factors that could explain the differences in the approach to water governance in these two countries is the educational background of their political leaders. Many of China's top political leaders were trained in water management including former President Hu Jintao who has a degree in water engineering. Not surprisingly, President Hu Jintao presided over the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, and supported the construction of large dams as well as the construction of the world's largest water diversion project. State owned hydropower companies which have a mandate to increase the share of hydropower in China's energy mix and to ensure water security for the cities are a politically powerful bloc in the state bureaucracy, even more powerful than line ministries such as the Ministry of Water and Ministry of Environment. In addition, because of the need to produce a cadre of water professionals, Chinese universities have established world-class training programs for water professionals.

In contrast, in India, none of its top national and state leaders have formal training in water management. Water agencies in India – irrigation, hydropower and urban water supply – are not as politically powerful as their Chinese counterparts because they have been weakened by a large number of veto players and have been highly politicized.

Overview of water governance

Conceptual studies

Araral & Wang (2013) provide a comprehensive review of the water governance literature and provide the following summary. First, there is lack of consensus on the scope and definition of water governance. Water governance has been studied by scholars from their own disciplinary orientations – from sociology, political science, institutions, behavioral science, economics and international relations, among others. Consequently, the literature has not evolved into a multi- and inter-disciplinary agenda despite the fact that water governance problems have such dimensions.

Second, available literature is generally descriptive and argumentative and offers little theoretical coherence. As a result, it is often weak in diagnostic and predictive value and provides little implication for water policy. Finally, there is no consensus yet on how to approach the study of water governance. Some scholars, such as Saleth & Dinar (2005), employ a comparative approach. Biswas & Tortajada (2010) propose an alternative approach based on independent and objective case studies of good practices of water governance.

Araral & Wang (2013) have provided another alternative, suggesting that water governance could be studied using theories drawn from: (1) public sector economics; (2) institutional economics; (3) political economy; and (4) public administration. Figure 1 provides a schematic illustration of these four sets of complementary diagnostic tools. This paper build on this framework and these theories.
Fig. 1.

Disciplinary foundations for water governance.

Fig. 1.

Disciplinary foundations for water governance.

Briefly, public economics is concerned with the welfare implications of water policy, such as efficiency and equity. Its theoretical core, i.e. market failures, is based on the theories of the commons, property rights, externalities, natural monopolies and public goods. These theories provide an economic rationale for the government to play a significant role in water resources management and water supply. However, problems associated with government failures pose their own set of challenges.

The new institutional economics approach is concerned with the efficacy and cost effectiveness of institutional alternatives to water governance (i.e. private, public, hybrids). Its theoretical core is derived from the interrelated theories of transaction, contract and property rights. For instance, contract and transaction cost theories can help provide a robust explanation for the general failure of water utilities privatization in the last 20 years and the challenges of public–private partnerships for water service. Transaction cost theory can also help explain the challenges of integrated water resources management.

The political economy approach is concerned with the interaction between the politics and economics of water. Its analytic core draws on non-cooperative game theory as well as theories of collective action and public choice. Political economy theories have been used to explain the challenges of water governance (see, for instance, Shirley, 2002).

Finally, the public administration approach is concerned with explaining variations in the performance of water bureaucracies using theories of government failures, as well as agency theory as their theoretical cores. Theories of government failure have been used to explain the poor performance of public water utilities and irrigation agencies in many developing countries, for instance by Araral (2008, 2009).

Empirical studies

There are very few empirical studies on water governance, particularly of a comparative nature. Araral & Yu (2013) and Saleth & Dinar (2004) surveyed 100 officials from 17 countries in Asia Pacific over two time periods (2001 and 2010) following a survey protocol of 19 indicators of water law, policies and administration.

The findings from the Araral and Yu study can be summarized as follows. First, their findings suggest the possibility of a water Kuznet's curve, i.e. certain water governance indicators vary with a country's level of economic development. For instance, they find a positive correlation between a country's level of economic development and aspects of its water laws. This correlation is evident with legal accountability for water sector officials; there is a tendency towards centralization of water governance and more integration of water laws with other laws on land, forest, and environment.

They suggest that the variations in water laws among high-, middle- and low-income countries can be explained by probably more developed legal systems for countries with higher levels of economic development (i.e. spill-over effect). In particular, the positive correlation between legal accountability and economic development is consistent with the water governance literature, for instance Tortajada (2006) referring to Singapore, Anbarci et al. (2009) in the case of access to drinking water in 85 countries, Davis (2004) referring to South Asia and Estache et al. (2007) referring to Africa.

Second, they find more decentralized water governance in lower income countries which is consistent with the literature, for instance Vermillion (1997) based on a meta-analyses of 29 irrigation studies. Third, they find a negative correlation between a country's level of economic development and its citizen participation in water governance. They attribute this to the importance of irrigation (and farmer managed irrigation) in lower income countries (see Vermillion, 1997; Lam, 1998) as well as the importance of urban poor water associations in managing water supply in slum areas in low income countries (McIntosh, 2003).

Fourth, they find two aspects of water law that do not vary systematically with a country's level of economic development. For instance, the format of surface water rights varied considerably among countries from common or state property to multiple rights, riparian system, and appropriative rights, among others, although state property is the most common. This wide variation reflects the unique circumstances that led to the evolution of these rights. These include differences in the legal tradition of a country, its size, geography and water endowments, importance of indigenous water rights and the country's political system as well as other factors. Multiple use water rights are not surprising, for instance see Bruns et al. (2005) for a more exhaustive conceptual and comparative analysis; Haisman (2005) in Liu (2005) in China.

Finally, they find that the legal distinction of different water sources (ground, surface and rain) do not vary systematically with levels of income. This could be better explained by a country's geography, legal origins and administrative structure. For instance, in middle-income countries (e.g. Philippines and Indonesia), variations in the legal distinction of different sources can be explained by variations in the administrative structure of water governance, i.e. there are separate agencies dealing with different types of water.

In terms of variations in water policy, Araral & Yu (2013) find that water pricing varies with a country's level of economic development. Richer countries tend to pursue cost recovery compared to lower income countries where raising the water tariff remains a politically sensitive subject. This is not surprising. Consumers in high- and middle-income countries are able to afford their water bills more easily compared to poorer countries. They also find that the extent of linkages between water law and policy, as well as availability of finance for water investments, varies with economic development.

Second, they find little consistent trend among high-, middle- and low-income countries in terms of (1) project selection criteria and (2) the extent to which other (non-water) policies have a significant influence on water policy. This fragmentation is not surprising and is a common critique of scholars of water governance, for instance Biswas (2004). In the case of water utilities privatization, Clarke et al. (2004) and Hall & Lobina (2006) find mixed results worldwide with more challenging experience from developing countries.

Third, they find that the extent of private sector participation varies inversely with a country's level of economic development. It is possible that as a country becomes richer, its public sector becomes equally if not more capable than the private sector in implementing water investment projects. Conversely, in poorer economies, the public sector is relatively weak and hence may have to rely more on the private sector to implement investment projects.

Finally, in terms of water administration, Araral and Yu find a positive correlation between a country's average income and certain aspects of water administration, such as functional capacity and balance among water agencies, and use of adequate and reliable water data for planning and application of science and technology to solve water governance problems.

Interestingly, they find that water apex bodies are more pronounced in low-income than high-income countries. There are no clear explanations in the literature for this finding but they speculate that this can be due to the influence of international aid agencies in shaping water policies in developing countries. Also, they do not find systematic variations between the organizational basis for water (i.e. geographic, hydrologic, river basin, mixed) and the level of economic development, thereby reflecting the unique evolution of institutions in these countries (Bruns et al., 2005; Saleth & Dinar, 2005).

Framework, data and methodology

We build on the conceptual framework originally developed by Saleth & Dinar (2004), which consists of three dimensions of water governance, namely water law, water policy, and water administration. Table 2 summarizes the components and the definitions of these three dimensions of water governance. Most of the variables in our study are ordinal variables while three are nominal (discrete) variables. The components were chosen to represent the concept of water governance as they have been frequently cited and debated in the literature and in policy discussions (Dinar & Saleth, 2005), as well as being part of the widely accepted Dublin Principles on Water Management. The variables are also amenable to direct policy manipulation, which makes them even more appealing.

Table 2.

Conceptual and operational definition of water governance.

DimensionIDComponentDefinition
Water Law L1: Legal Distinction of Different Water Sources (ORD) This represents the degree to which varying water sources are treated alike or differently by water laws (i.e. surface water, groundwater). It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘very different’, 0 being ‘alike’. 
L2: Format of Surface Water Property Rights (NOM) This indicates the basis of general rights in surface water. The scores center around the following criteria: none, not clear, common or state property, multiple rights, riparian system, appropriative system, correlative system (equal or proportional, sharing) and license/permits. 
L3: Legal Accountability of Water Sector Officials (ORD) This represents the effectiveness of accountability provisions by water laws for water officials. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Accountable’, 0 being ‘No Accountability’. 
L4: Decentralization Tendency within Water Law (ORD) This illustrates whether or not present laws contribute to centralization and the strength of the tendency of present laws towards centralization. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Centralized’, 0 being ‘Highly Decentralized’. 
L5: Legal Scope for Private and User Participation (ORD) This represents how favorable the legal provisions for private sector, NGO and community participation in water development/management are. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Very Favorable’, 0 being ‘Unfavorable’. 
L6: Legal Framework for Integrated Treatment of Water Sources (ORD) This indicates the integration level of water laws with other laws on land, forest, and the environment. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Integrated’, 0 being ‘Fragmented’. 
Water Policy P1: Project Selection Criteria (NOM) This indicates the criteria used in water project selection and how extensively they are applied in irrigation, urban and multi-purpose projects. The scores center around the following criteria: no response, political dictates, equity factors, ecological factors, (ECO), benefit–cost ratio (BC), internal rate of return (IRR), and multiple criteria. 
  P2: Linkages with Other Policies (ORD) This represents the extent of the influence of other policies on water policy. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Influential’, 0 being ‘No Influence’. The linked policies include agricultural policies, energy and power policies, soil conservation policies, pollution control and environmental policies, fiscal policies (structural adjustment), credit and investment policies, and foreign investment and aid policies. 
  P3: Pricing Policy (ORD) This represents the extent of cost recovery by tariffs. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Full Cost Recovery’, 0 being ‘Full Subsidy’. The average of domestic, industrial and irrigation pricing policies is derived. 
  P4: Private Sector Participation (ORD) This corresponds to how favorable water policy is on private sector participation. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ’Very Favorable’, 0 being ‘Unfavorable’. The scores are averaged across the domains of irrigation, urban domestic use, rural domestic use, and industrial and commercial use. 
  P5: User Participation (ORD) This explains how favorable water policy is on user participation and decentralization. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Very Favorable’, 0 being ‘Unfavorable’. The scores are averaged across the domains of irrigation, urban domestic use, rural domestic use, and industrial and commercial use in the stages of planning and development and operation and maintenance. 
P6: Linkage between Water Law and Water Policy (ORD) This represents the extent of the linkages between water law and water policy. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Tightly Linked’, 0 being ‘No Linkage’. 
P7: Attention to Poverty and Water (ORD) This represents how well the concerns of the poor are reflected by water policy. It aggregates two components – the existence of such policies and their effectiveness and extent. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Reflected’, 0 being ‘Hardly Reflected’. 
P8: Finance for Water Investment (ORD) This represents the adequacy of funding available for current and future water investments. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Adequate’, 0 being ‘Inadequate’. The scores are averaged across the funding for ‘new infrastructure’, ‘utilities repair and O&M’, ‘irrigation’ and ‘water resources management’. 
Water Administration A1: Organizational Basis (NOM) This shows the basis on which water administration is organized. The scores center around the following criteria: on administration division (geographical basis), on hydro-geological regions, on river basins, and mixture of all. 
 A2: Functional Balance (ORD) This indicates whether or not functional specialization within water administration is balanced. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Balanced’, 0 being ‘Highly Unbalanced’. The tested functions are – Planning and design, Implementation, Financial management, Operation and maintenance, Rehabilitation and resettlement, Environmental monitoring, Research, training and extension, Interagency or departmental relationships. 
 A3: Existence of Independent Water Pricing Body or Apex Body (ORD) This represents the existence of independent bodies for determining water price. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Existent’, 0 being ‘Non-existent’. 
 A4: Accountability and Regulatory Mechanisms (ORD) This represents the effectiveness of the accountability arrangements evaluated. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Effective’, 0 being ‘Highly Ineffective’. The accountability mechanism was analyzed with respect to both within and outside of formal administration. 
  A5: Validity of Water Data for Planning (ORD) This represents the adequacy and reliability of water data for planning purposes. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Valid’, 0 being ‘Invalid’. 
A6: Science and Technology Application (ORD) This indicates the extent to which the following science and technology components are used within water administration: computers, remote sensing and satellite, research and experimental information, modern accounting and auditing techniques, management information systems, geographic information systems, wireless communication, water-measuring technology, computerized dynamic regulation of canals and water delivery networks. The aggregate score is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Very Extensive’, 0 being ‘Very Low’. The scores are averaged across the technologies specified above. 
DimensionIDComponentDefinition
Water Law L1: Legal Distinction of Different Water Sources (ORD) This represents the degree to which varying water sources are treated alike or differently by water laws (i.e. surface water, groundwater). It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘very different’, 0 being ‘alike’. 
L2: Format of Surface Water Property Rights (NOM) This indicates the basis of general rights in surface water. The scores center around the following criteria: none, not clear, common or state property, multiple rights, riparian system, appropriative system, correlative system (equal or proportional, sharing) and license/permits. 
L3: Legal Accountability of Water Sector Officials (ORD) This represents the effectiveness of accountability provisions by water laws for water officials. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Accountable’, 0 being ‘No Accountability’. 
L4: Decentralization Tendency within Water Law (ORD) This illustrates whether or not present laws contribute to centralization and the strength of the tendency of present laws towards centralization. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Centralized’, 0 being ‘Highly Decentralized’. 
L5: Legal Scope for Private and User Participation (ORD) This represents how favorable the legal provisions for private sector, NGO and community participation in water development/management are. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Very Favorable’, 0 being ‘Unfavorable’. 
L6: Legal Framework for Integrated Treatment of Water Sources (ORD) This indicates the integration level of water laws with other laws on land, forest, and the environment. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Integrated’, 0 being ‘Fragmented’. 
Water Policy P1: Project Selection Criteria (NOM) This indicates the criteria used in water project selection and how extensively they are applied in irrigation, urban and multi-purpose projects. The scores center around the following criteria: no response, political dictates, equity factors, ecological factors, (ECO), benefit–cost ratio (BC), internal rate of return (IRR), and multiple criteria. 
  P2: Linkages with Other Policies (ORD) This represents the extent of the influence of other policies on water policy. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Influential’, 0 being ‘No Influence’. The linked policies include agricultural policies, energy and power policies, soil conservation policies, pollution control and environmental policies, fiscal policies (structural adjustment), credit and investment policies, and foreign investment and aid policies. 
  P3: Pricing Policy (ORD) This represents the extent of cost recovery by tariffs. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Full Cost Recovery’, 0 being ‘Full Subsidy’. The average of domestic, industrial and irrigation pricing policies is derived. 
  P4: Private Sector Participation (ORD) This corresponds to how favorable water policy is on private sector participation. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ’Very Favorable’, 0 being ‘Unfavorable’. The scores are averaged across the domains of irrigation, urban domestic use, rural domestic use, and industrial and commercial use. 
  P5: User Participation (ORD) This explains how favorable water policy is on user participation and decentralization. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Very Favorable’, 0 being ‘Unfavorable’. The scores are averaged across the domains of irrigation, urban domestic use, rural domestic use, and industrial and commercial use in the stages of planning and development and operation and maintenance. 
P6: Linkage between Water Law and Water Policy (ORD) This represents the extent of the linkages between water law and water policy. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Tightly Linked’, 0 being ‘No Linkage’. 
P7: Attention to Poverty and Water (ORD) This represents how well the concerns of the poor are reflected by water policy. It aggregates two components – the existence of such policies and their effectiveness and extent. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Reflected’, 0 being ‘Hardly Reflected’. 
P8: Finance for Water Investment (ORD) This represents the adequacy of funding available for current and future water investments. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Adequate’, 0 being ‘Inadequate’. The scores are averaged across the funding for ‘new infrastructure’, ‘utilities repair and O&M’, ‘irrigation’ and ‘water resources management’. 
Water Administration A1: Organizational Basis (NOM) This shows the basis on which water administration is organized. The scores center around the following criteria: on administration division (geographical basis), on hydro-geological regions, on river basins, and mixture of all. 
 A2: Functional Balance (ORD) This indicates whether or not functional specialization within water administration is balanced. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Balanced’, 0 being ‘Highly Unbalanced’. The tested functions are – Planning and design, Implementation, Financial management, Operation and maintenance, Rehabilitation and resettlement, Environmental monitoring, Research, training and extension, Interagency or departmental relationships. 
 A3: Existence of Independent Water Pricing Body or Apex Body (ORD) This represents the existence of independent bodies for determining water price. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Existent’, 0 being ‘Non-existent’. 
 A4: Accountability and Regulatory Mechanisms (ORD) This represents the effectiveness of the accountability arrangements evaluated. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Effective’, 0 being ‘Highly Ineffective’. The accountability mechanism was analyzed with respect to both within and outside of formal administration. 
  A5: Validity of Water Data for Planning (ORD) This represents the adequacy and reliability of water data for planning purposes. It is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Highly Valid’, 0 being ‘Invalid’. 
A6: Science and Technology Application (ORD) This indicates the extent to which the following science and technology components are used within water administration: computers, remote sensing and satellite, research and experimental information, modern accounting and auditing techniques, management information systems, geographic information systems, wireless communication, water-measuring technology, computerized dynamic regulation of canals and water delivery networks. The aggregate score is on a scale of 0 to 10, 10 being ‘Very Extensive’, 0 being ‘Very Low’. The scores are averaged across the technologies specified above. 

Adapted from Saleth & Dinar (2005). ORD means ordinal variable; NOM means nominal.

Using this framework, a survey questionnaire has been prepared. The questionnaire covers every component listed in the table above and therefore covers all the three dimensions of Water Law, Water Policy and Water Administration. The survey is available at: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7WVPGRV. Using the online survey questionnaire, we surveyed 182 water experts from 10 provinces in China and nine states in India. The respondents consist of engineers, water legal experts, academics, economists and bureaucrats. The names and profiles of all respondents are available from the authors and can be obtained on request. The list of provinces in China and states in India, which were covered in the survey, is summarized in Table 3.

Table 3.

Survey respondents.

China (number of respondents)India (number of respondents)
National (4) National (7) 
Fujian (20) Uttarakhand (9) 
Beijing (4) Telangana (10) 
Liaoning (5) Tamil Nadu (9) 
Shaanxi (9) Andhra Pradesh (8) 
Guangzhou (10) Karnataka (10) 
Hainan (5) Maharashtra (13) 
Jiangsu (11) Haryana (8) 
Sichuan (9) Arunachal Pradesh (7) 
Jiangxi (10) Uttar Pradesh (8) 
Shanxi (6)  
China (number of respondents)India (number of respondents)
National (4) National (7) 
Fujian (20) Uttarakhand (9) 
Beijing (4) Telangana (10) 
Liaoning (5) Tamil Nadu (9) 
Shaanxi (9) Andhra Pradesh (8) 
Guangzhou (10) Karnataka (10) 
Hainan (5) Maharashtra (13) 
Jiangsu (11) Haryana (8) 
Sichuan (9) Arunachal Pradesh (7) 
Jiangxi (10) Uttar Pradesh (8) 
Shanxi (6)  

A detailed discussion of the strengths and limitations of this framework and methodology is described more fully in Araral & Yu (2013). In brief, the main strengths of our paper are as follows. First, we relied on a primary survey of expert respondents who have the breadth and depth of experience in the water sector in their provinces/states.

Second, we report on the standard deviations in the responses along with measures of central tendency. Third, compared to most cross country comparative studies which focus mainly on national experts, we surveyed water experts at the level of provinces and states to get a more nuanced view of water governance in a country.

The main weakness of our survey is that we have a relatively small pool of expert respondents, which is not representative of a truly randomized sample. The survey that was administered is a perception survey. Therefore, the responses from China and India will reflect the political systems that the respondents come from.

Findings and discussion

Comparison of water laws

Table 4 shows the descriptive statistics of water law variables from India as reported in the survey. The scores for all the states have been standardized to a scale of 100. There is a high degree of variation in respondents' views on different aspects of water law. For example, respondents feel that the level of legal nuance between different water rights is only modestly defined (lowest score: 49, highest score: 69). Accountability of water officials is considered modest (lowest score: 46, highest score: 60) while water law is considered relatively decentralized (lowest score: 11, highest score: 49). Integration of water law with other laws is quite low (lowest score: 34, highest score: 57).

Table 4.

Standardized scores for water law variable for India.

Level of legal nuanceAccountability of water sector officialsLevel of centralization of water lawLegal scope for private and user participationIntegration of water law with other laws
Min 48.6 46.3 11.1 44.3 33.8 
Max 68.8 60 48.6 58.3 56.7 
Average 57.9 51.8 30.7 51.1 47.0 
Std dev. 6.8 6.1 15.1 5.2 7.8 
Level of legal nuanceAccountability of water sector officialsLevel of centralization of water lawLegal scope for private and user participationIntegration of water law with other laws
Min 48.6 46.3 11.1 44.3 33.8 
Max 68.8 60 48.6 58.3 56.7 
Average 57.9 51.8 30.7 51.1 47.0 
Std dev. 6.8 6.1 15.1 5.2 7.8 

Table 5 shows the standardized scores for different aspects of water laws in China (see Araral & Wang, 2015). A comparison between the scores of India and China shows that the legal accountability of water sector officials is perceived to be higher in China (62) than India (52). In China, water laws are more centralized and integrated compared to India (China standard deviation 10 vs. India 15). Although the perceived legal scope for private and user participation in the water sector is slightly lower in China when compared with India, significantly, the integration of water laws with other laws is much higher in China (61) than in India (47).

Table 5.

Standardized scores for water law variables for China.

Level of legal nuanceLegal accountability of water sector officialsLevel of centralization of water lawLegal scope for private and user participationIntegration of water law with other laws
Min 34.2 46.0 46.0 28.3 50.0 
Max 59.9 76.0 74.0 61.0 72.2 
Average 52.8 62.0 56.4 43.7 61.6 
Std dev. 8.8 10.0 10.2 11.0 8.2 
Level of legal nuanceLegal accountability of water sector officialsLevel of centralization of water lawLegal scope for private and user participationIntegration of water law with other laws
Min 34.2 46.0 46.0 28.3 50.0 
Max 59.9 76.0 74.0 61.0 72.2 
Average 52.8 62.0 56.4 43.7 61.6 
Std dev. 8.8 10.0 10.2 11.0 8.2 

The variations in water laws between China and India are in accordance with the findings of Araral & Yu (2013) in terms of a positive correlation between a country's economic development and aspects of water laws such as centralization of water governance and integration of water laws with other laws. The variations are clearly evident when these laws are translated into specific policies as the next section will show.

Comparison of water policy

Table 6 below reflects the standardized scores for water policy variables in India. Water policies are perceived to be closely linked with other policies (minimum score: 39, maximum score: 57). Cost recovery is not perceived to be a major policy goal (average score: 26 out of 100). Private sector participation in water policy is not believed to have a major role (minimum score: 32, maximum score: 45). There is a perception of limited user participation in determination of water policies (average score: 42). The linkage between water law and policy is modest (average score: 57). The perception of providing attention to poverty while determining water policies is woefully low (average score: 25 out of 100), while availability of finance for water investment is modest (minimum score: 45, maximum score: 52).

Table 6.

Standardized scores for water policy variables for India.

Linkage w/other policiesCost recoveryPrivate sector participationUser participationLinkage between water law and policyAttention to poverty and waterAvailability of finance for water investment
Min 38.5 12.9 31.8 33.9 51.0 16.25 44.7 
Max 57.1 45.7 45.2 47.7 65.7 36.0 51.6 
Average 52.1 26.0 38.6 41.6 56.9 25.2 48.8 
Std dev. 5.2 9.6 5.0 4.4 4.5 7.2 2.7 
Linkage w/other policiesCost recoveryPrivate sector participationUser participationLinkage between water law and policyAttention to poverty and waterAvailability of finance for water investment
Min 38.5 12.9 31.8 33.9 51.0 16.25 44.7 
Max 57.1 45.7 45.2 47.7 65.7 36.0 51.6 
Average 52.1 26.0 38.6 41.6 56.9 25.2 48.8 
Std dev. 5.2 9.6 5.0 4.4 4.5 7.2 2.7 

Table 7 below shows the standardized scores for water policy for China. In China, the integration of water policies with other policies (such as energy, agriculture, industrial policies, urbanization) is much higher than in India (average scores for China 62 vs. India 52). This is not surprising. China has been undertaking large-scale integrated water resources management in the last 30 years with their large dam and water transfer projects and Yellow River Basin project. These projects are all linked by their objectives of producing hydropower and water for agriculture, industries and domestic use. The Yellow River Basin project is one example of a partially successful integrated water resources management project. In contrast in India, there are no comparable large-scale dam, water transfer and integrated river basin projects. Water management in India remains highly fragmented.

Table 7.

Standardized scores for water policy variables for China.

Linkage w/other policiesCost recoveryPrivate sector participationUser participationLinkage between water law and policyAttention to poverty and waterAvailability of finance for water investment
Min 47.9 52.5 42.5 42.6 49.1 35.6 48.6 
Max 75.6 69.3 67.7 65.0 81.0 74.0 77.5 
Average 62.0 59.4 55.7 49.2 66.8 53.2 60.3 
Std dev. 8.1 5.4 8.7 6.8 9.5 11.9 8.9 
Linkage w/other policiesCost recoveryPrivate sector participationUser participationLinkage between water law and policyAttention to poverty and waterAvailability of finance for water investment
Min 47.9 52.5 42.5 42.6 49.1 35.6 48.6 
Max 75.6 69.3 67.7 65.0 81.0 74.0 77.5 
Average 62.0 59.4 55.7 49.2 66.8 53.2 60.3 
Std dev. 8.1 5.4 8.7 6.8 9.5 11.9 8.9 

Furthermore, in China compared to India, water policy is more closely associated with principles of cost recovery, private sector participation, user participation and attention to poverty (China average scores 60, 56, 49, 53 vs. 26, 39, 42, 25 in India). In China, local water utilities and irrigation agencies have been practicing cost recovery for the last 20 years. In contrast in India, much of the urban and irrigation water supply remain subsidized, implicitly and explicitly by the government. In India, 90% of the annual freshwater water supply is consumed by the agriculture sector. The corresponding figure for China is 65%. Since the agriculture sector in India is made up of a large number of small farmers, water tariff is a highly politicized subject in contrast to China.

Furthermore, the fact that China can provide more reliable urban water and irrigation water supply to its poorer households supports the reputation that its water policies are more pro-poor compared to India which is unable to provide reliable water supply and sanitation to its urban poor and provides unreliable irrigation service to its farmers.

The availability of finance for water projects is also higher in China when compared with India. China is awash with money for water and sanitation projects. It has set aside USD320 billion (109) for water pollution projects alone from 2014 to 2020. For its North-South Water Transfer Project alone, the budget is USD62 billion (109) and another USD26 billion (109) for the Three Gorges Dam project. In contrast in India, the new Government has set aside USD2.25 billion (109) for the year 2014–15 for water management3.

Moreover, private sector participation in the water sector in China (average score: 56) is much higher than in India (average score: 39). This is not surprising either. China is a world leader in terms of public–private partnership for water treatment projects, water reuse and water resources development. From 1992 to 2011, there were close to 60 foreign PPP water projects throughout major cities in China benefitting some 85 million households. In contrast, in India there have only been 17 PPP water projects since the 1990s covering only 5 million households. In short, China is 17 times more effective in terms of mobilizing foreign PPP and delivering domestic water supply compared to India.

The scores for water policy confirm the findings of Araral & Yu (2013). They find that there is a positive correlation between a country's level of economic development and pursuit of cost recovery in water pricing. Similarly, they find a positive correlation between economic development and availability of finance for water investments.

Comparison of water administration

Table 8 below shows the standardized scores for water administration in India. The scores show a relative lack of confidence in water administration. Both, functional capacity and balance in water administration, as well as presence of an independent water pricing body do not seem to exist consistently across the country. Interestingly, there is a relatively high confidence in water data (average score: 54, highest score: 59). The perception of application of science and technology to water administration is modest (average score: 50). Perception of accountability and regulatory mechanism is also modest (minimum score: 48, maximum score: 60). Clearly, the pillars of water administration are not perceived to be strong in India.

Table 8.

Standardized scores for water administration variables for India.

Functional capacity and balanceIndependent water pricing or apex bodyAccountability and regulatory mechanismsValidity of water dataScience and technology application
Min 2.5 5.6 47.5 50 46.7 
Max 41.3 24 59.7 58.8 54.4 
Average 12.1 11.9 54.0 54.4 49.8 
Std dev. 11.6 10.3 3.3 3.7 2.1 
Functional capacity and balanceIndependent water pricing or apex bodyAccountability and regulatory mechanismsValidity of water dataScience and technology application
Min 2.5 5.6 47.5 50 46.7 
Max 41.3 24 59.7 58.8 54.4 
Average 12.1 11.9 54.0 54.4 49.8 
Std dev. 11.6 10.3 3.3 3.7 2.1 

Table 9 below reflects the standardized scores for water administration for China. When compared with India, there is clearly more capacity for water administration in China. For instance, the functional capacity and balance score in China has a much higher average than in India (China average score: 63, India average score: 12). This means that China has a considerably larger pool of water professionals (engineers, water resource specialists, finance, economics, administration, etc.). This is not surprising considering the large number of large dam projects currently underway in China that is fueling the demand for such expertise. The Yellow River Conservancy Commission alone employs some 33,000 professional and administrative staff.

Table 9.

Standardized scores for water administration variables for China.

Functional capacity and balanceIndependent water pricing or apex bodyAccountability and regulatory mechanismsValidity of water dataScience and technology application
Min 52.6 27.8 50.5 61.1 47.2 
Max 70.4 49.0 73.8 86.0 78.4 
Average 62.7 38.0 60.8 73.3 63.5 
Std dev 6.2 7.0 8.9 8.6 9.4 
Functional capacity and balanceIndependent water pricing or apex bodyAccountability and regulatory mechanismsValidity of water dataScience and technology application
Min 52.6 27.8 50.5 61.1 47.2 
Max 70.4 49.0 73.8 86.0 78.4 
Average 62.7 38.0 60.8 73.3 63.5 
Std dev 6.2 7.0 8.9 8.6 9.4 

Independent water pricing bodies and water apex bodies are more prevalent in China than in India (China average score: 38, India average score: 12). In China, water agencies in cities/counties have considerable autonomy and authority to impose the water tariff. Water pricing in China is much less politicized compared with India where politicians are generally reluctant to increase the water tariff. Likewise, there are more water apex bodies in China (for example, the powerful river basin commissions) than there are in India. Again, this is a reflection in part of India's decentralized political structure.

There are also differences in accountability and regulatory mechanisms between India and China (India scores 54 on average vs. 61 in China). In China, the promotion of bureaucrats, local politicians and managers of water corporations hinges on their ability to deliver on their performance targets given a more facilitative political and administrative structure. A good illustrative example of a sophisticated regulatory mechanism can be seen in the management of the Yellow River Basin, the world's most intensely exploited river basin, being home to more than 110 million people. Since 1998 when the river basin faced severe water shortage and pollution issues, the Yellow River Conservancy Commission has instituted a series of regulations to manage the water quantity and quality issues in the river basin.

This is not to say that water regulation in China is consistently good. There are also many cases of light touch environmental regulation where officials, under pressure to deliver on their targets, have been lenient on violations of environmental regulations. One dramatic example is the chemical pollution in Yancheng, Jiangsu Province, which contaminated the water supply and forced 200,000 people to depend on bottled water for days. There are many other similar examples throughout China of light touch environmental regulation.

In contrast, in India, water agencies are fragmented and water bureaucrats are widely encumbered by legal, judicial and political and administrative obstacles. Courts in India are widely used to oppose water projects including pricing reforms. Electoral cycles and political competition create uncertainties for long-term large-scale water projects. Water managers are subject to political control.

Under these conditions, accountability mechanisms in India become blurred. Unlike the Yellow River Basin, which China managed to successfully clean up and turn around in a decade, India struggles to clean up the Ganges River Basin despite decades of political promises to do so. Furthermore, since 1982, India has been planning to link the Ganga–Meghna–Brahmaputra river basins and set up the National Water Development Agency as early as 1982 for this purpose. To date, nothing substantial has materialized from this plan. These two examples illustrate the vast differences in the implementation capacities of China and India. In China, when the national government sets out a policy and a target, it is often implemented. This is not the case in India.

Finally, we also find, again not surprisingly, significant differences in the application of science and technology to solve water problems in China and India (China average 64 vs. India 50). For instance, in China the application of water science and technology is clearly evident in its massive dam and water diversion projects, its Yellow River Conservancy Project and through its water treatment, reuse and desalination projects among its major cities. In the Yellow River Basin project, this is evident in the application of the ‘Digital Yellow River System’ which monitors water extraction and quality issues throughout the breadth and length of the 5,600 km river system. In 2012, there were 3,836 wastewater facilities in urban areas in China compared to only 20 in the 1980s. Treatment rates cover about 77% of cities and 60% of counties.

T-test scores

In order to confirm that the differences between India and China are statistically different, we have undertaken a T-test (at 1% confidence level). The results are shown in Table 10.

Table 10.

T-test (at 1% confidence level).

Level of Legal Differentiation 0.046 
Format of Surface Water Rights 0.011 
Legal Accountability of Water Sector Professionals 0.013 
Centralization of Water Law 0.000 
Legal Scope for Private and User Participation 0.020 
Integration of Water Law with other Laws 0.194 
Project Selection Criteria 0.000 
Linkages with other Policies 0.003 
Pricing Policy (degree of cost recovery) 0.000 
Private Sector Participation 0.000 
 User Participation 0.006 
Linkage between Water Law and Policy 0.003 
Attention to Poverty and Water 0.000 
Availability of Finance for Water Investment 0.000 
Organizational Basis 0.351 
Functional Capacity and Balance 0.000 
Independent Water Pricing or Apex Body 0.000 
Accountability and Regulatory Mechanisms 0.140 
Validity of Water Data 0.000 
Science and Technology Application 0.000 
Level of Legal Differentiation 0.046 
Format of Surface Water Rights 0.011 
Legal Accountability of Water Sector Professionals 0.013 
Centralization of Water Law 0.000 
Legal Scope for Private and User Participation 0.020 
Integration of Water Law with other Laws 0.194 
Project Selection Criteria 0.000 
Linkages with other Policies 0.003 
Pricing Policy (degree of cost recovery) 0.000 
Private Sector Participation 0.000 
 User Participation 0.006 
Linkage between Water Law and Policy 0.003 
Attention to Poverty and Water 0.000 
Availability of Finance for Water Investment 0.000 
Organizational Basis 0.351 
Functional Capacity and Balance 0.000 
Independent Water Pricing or Apex Body 0.000 
Accountability and Regulatory Mechanisms 0.140 
Validity of Water Data 0.000 
Science and Technology Application 0.000 

For variables that have p-values that are more than 0.01, the difference in scores is not significant. This is true for a few variables such as level of legal differentiation, format of surface water rights and integration of water law with other laws. However, for most variables the difference in scores between the two countries is statistically significant.

Summary and concluding remarks

Overall, our initial findings suggest that water governance in China is consistently stronger compared to India across various dimensions of water laws, policies and administration. We argued that these differences in water governance eventually matter to water sector performance.

Table 11 provides a summary of a stylized comparison of water governance between the two countries. As Table 11 shows, China has more nuanced water laws, stronger legal accountability of water sector officials, has greater scope of private sector participation and greater integration of water laws with other laws. In terms of water policies, China compared to India, promotes better integration with other policies (i.e. energy, agriculture, industrialization, urbanization), employs principles of cost recovery, promotes greater private and foreign investor participation in water projects, pays attention to water poverty issues, and has considerably more finance for water investments. In contrast, in India, water policies are often fragmented from other policies, and India heavily employs subsidies (which encourages inefficient use), has insignificant levels of private sector participation in water projects, does not adequately pay attention to water-poverty issues and does not have sufficient financial means to support water investments.

Table 11.

Stylized comparison of water laws, policies and administration in China and India.

China (Average) (Std dev.)India (Average) (Std dev.)
Water Laws 
 Legal nuance (52.8) (8.8) (57.9) (6.8) 
 Legal accountability (62) (10) (51.8) (6.1) 
 Centralization of water law (56.4) (10.2) (30.7) (15.1) 
 Legal scope for private and user participation (43.7) (11) (51.1) (5.2) 
 Integration of water law with other laws (61.6) (8.2) (47) (7.8) 
Water Policies 
 Linkage with other policies (62) (8.1) (52.1) (5.2) 
 Cost recovery (59.4) (5.4) (26) (9.6) 
 Private sector participation (55.7) (8.7) (38.6) (5) 
 User participation (49.2) (6.8) (41.6) (4.4) 
 Linkage between water law and policy (66.8) (9.5) (56.9) (4.5) 
 Attention to poverty and water (53.2) (11.9) (25.2) (7.2) 
 Availability of finance for water investment (60.3) (8.9) (48.8) (2.7) 
Water Administration 
 Functional capacity and balance (62.7) (6.2) (12.1) (11.6) 
 Independent water pricing or apex body (38) (7) (11.9) (10.3) 
 Accountability and regulatory mechanisms (60.8) (8.9) (54) (3.3) 
 Validity of water data (73.3) (8.6) (54.4) (3.7) 
 Science and technology application (63.5) (9.4) (49.8) (2.1) 
China (Average) (Std dev.)India (Average) (Std dev.)
Water Laws 
 Legal nuance (52.8) (8.8) (57.9) (6.8) 
 Legal accountability (62) (10) (51.8) (6.1) 
 Centralization of water law (56.4) (10.2) (30.7) (15.1) 
 Legal scope for private and user participation (43.7) (11) (51.1) (5.2) 
 Integration of water law with other laws (61.6) (8.2) (47) (7.8) 
Water Policies 
 Linkage with other policies (62) (8.1) (52.1) (5.2) 
 Cost recovery (59.4) (5.4) (26) (9.6) 
 Private sector participation (55.7) (8.7) (38.6) (5) 
 User participation (49.2) (6.8) (41.6) (4.4) 
 Linkage between water law and policy (66.8) (9.5) (56.9) (4.5) 
 Attention to poverty and water (53.2) (11.9) (25.2) (7.2) 
 Availability of finance for water investment (60.3) (8.9) (48.8) (2.7) 
Water Administration 
 Functional capacity and balance (62.7) (6.2) (12.1) (11.6) 
 Independent water pricing or apex body (38) (7) (11.9) (10.3) 
 Accountability and regulatory mechanisms (60.8) (8.9) (54) (3.3) 
 Validity of water data (73.3) (8.6) (54.4) (3.7) 
 Science and technology application (63.5) (9.4) (49.8) (2.1) 

Similarly, in terms of water administration, China has considerably more capacity compared to India, particularly in terms of functional capacity and balance among water agencies, has independent water pricing and water apex bodies, has relatively stronger accountability and regulatory mechanisms and considerably stronger application of science and technology for water management.

We speculated that these variations in water governance in China and India could be attributed to differences in political, legal and administrative systems as well as levels of economic development. Integrated river basin management is made more feasible in China because of its strong central government compared with a more fragmented and decentralized system such as India. It also matters that China's top political leadership have been trained as water engineers. Equally important, prior studies suggest in fact that quality of water governance is positively associated with a country/province's level of economic development (Araral & Yu, 2013; Araral & Wang, 2015).

A topic for future research could be to link the perceived differences between the two countries in water laws, politics and administration to differences in water sector outcomes such as water quality and water availability indicators.

Araral & Yu (2013) have shown that a second generation multi-disciplinary research agenda will be incentive based and policy driven (Figure 1, above).

1

(2011) ‘Excreta Matters’ Centre for Science and Environment.

2

(2011) ‘India Infrastructure Report’ IDFC Limited, India.

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