Understanding the Water Crisis in Northern China: What Government and Farmers Are Doing
Jinxia Wang, Jikun Huang
Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

The overall goal of our research is to get the facts right, to make clear whether there is a water crisis in China, and to identify the responses of the different stakeholders–government water officials, community leaders and farmers. In order to achieve the overall goal, we will pursue several specific objectives. First, we will evaluate the status of China's groundwater economy–examining whether or not the groundwater table is systematically falling across space. Second, in the parts of China that do face a water crisis (or potential crisis), we document the regulations and policies that the government–both local and regional–have implemented and discuss whether they have been successfully implemented. Third, we describe how farmers have responded to the water crisis and try to assess whether or not their roles have helped alleviate the water scarcities or exacerbated the crisis.

To meet these objectives, we use two large field surveys that cover 7 provinces in northern China. Our findings demonstrate that, although the water table is not falling everywhere in northern China, there are still a substantial number of communities that appear to be facing a water crisis. When there is a water crisis, our data show that the government in China has begun to make a number of policy responses, but the implementation is not always effective. Where water is becoming scarce, farmers and community leaders also have made many responses. However, farmers do not always respond in ways that saves water. The major reason is that farmers do not always face good incentives. When they face good incentives, our research shows that they do save water. Hence, the government cannot ignore the way that farmers respond. In fact, good policy needs to use this responsiveness to reduce the adverse effects of water scarcities and encourage conservation.

Keywords: Water crisis; Government's response; Farmers' response; Northern China

Biography: Jinxia Wang is deputy director of Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy (CCAP), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and professor of the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research. She has a BS (1993) and MS (1996) in agricultural economics from Agricultural University of Inner Mongolia, and a Ph.D. (2000) in agricultural economics from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. From 1996 to 1997 she also attended the Leader 21 Winrock International Ph.D. Training Program on Agricultural Economics. Her research covers management, institution and policy of water resources, climate change, and conservation agriculture. Until now, she has led more than 20 international and domestic projects. She has published more than 80 papers with more than 50 papers in refereed international journals. She is also the co-author of 3 books. In 2009, she got the the Outstanding Young Scientist Award from the National Natural Science Foundation in China.