Poster Paper: Evaluating the Performance of a National Water Policy Innovation in China: An Empirical Study of the Water Ecological Civilization Pilot Project

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Can Cui1, Jung Eun Kim1, Tian Tang2 and Hongtao Yi3, (1)University of Hong Kong, (2)Florida State University, (3)The Ohio State University

The Chinese government has increasingly realized the importance of ecological conservation in the environmental governance over the past decade. Water system, as a controlling element of ecosystem, is the core of ecological civil society. With extremely rapid economic growth and a large population base in China, water ecological system is always burdened with significant water supply pressures and serious water pollution challenges. How to achieve the harmony between social system and water system becomes an urgent task and a priority on China’s policy agenda.

Given this urgency, Chinese central government launched a comprehensive water governance program in 2013: the National Water Ecological Civilization Pilot Project. This project addresses water related ecological challenges by promoting the sustainability of water ecology through local level water governance innovation. In this project, 105 local governments were selected to develop a comprehensive and systematic implementation plans on water supply, flood control, and ecological conservation, taking into account their local characteristics. It aims to improve water security, reduce water pollution, protect the water ecological system, and advocate water conservation. While the significance of water ecological civilization has been widely discussed in China, the effectiveness of such public-sector innovation has not been empirically evaluated. A comparative study between pilot cities and non-pilot cities on water performance is valuable to understand the impact of the multilevel water governance and the effectiveness of innovative practices in the multilevel governance setting.

In this paper, we evaluate the effectiveness of this water governance pilot project in China, in which the participants are not randomly selected. In our sample, 77 out of 287 prefecture level cities were selected as pilot cities by the central government in 2013 and 2014. We construct a city-year panel dataset of 287 prefecture-level cities in China from 2006 to 2015 and use a synthetic control method, to examine the impacts of the program on water governance performance. We measure water governance performance by different water-related indicators, i.e. wastewater treatment rate, quantity of water saved, and quantity of water supplied. The data is collected from China City Statistical Yearbook and China City Construction Statistical Yearbook. Preliminary results indicate positive effects of water ecological civilization development on water performance. This study provides insights for future development of water governance projects and evaluation on other public sector innovations.