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Managing Scarce Water Resources in China’s Coal Power Industry


Coal power generation capacity is expanding rapidly in the arid northwest regions in China. Its impact on water resources is attracting growing concerns from policy-makers, researchers, as well as mass media. This paper briefly describes the situation of electricity-water conflict in China and provides a comprehensive review on a variety of water resources management policies in China’s coal power industry. These policies range from mandatory regulations to incentive-based instruments, covering water withdrawal standards, technological requirements on water saving, unconventional water resources utilization (such as reclaimed municipal wastewater, seawater, and mine water), water resources fee, and water permit transfer. Implementing these policies jointly is of crucial importance for alleviating the water stress from the expanding coal power industry in China.

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Chao Zhang is supported by National Science Foundation of China (71503182), "Chenguang Program" of Shanghai Education Development Foundation (14CG20) and Tongji University Sustainable Development and New-Type Urbanization Think Tank. Lijin Zhong, Xiaotian Fu from the World Resources Institute are supported by the Energy Foundation, Irish Aid, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affair, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affair and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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Correspondence to Chao Zhang.

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Zhang, C., Zhong, L., Fu, X. et al. Managing Scarce Water Resources in China’s Coal Power Industry. Environmental Management 57, 1188–1203 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-016-0678-2

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  • Electricity-water nexus
  • Coal power industry
  • Water resource management
  • Unconventional water resources
  • Water resource fee
  • Water permit transfer