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The Peoples Republic of China is presently one of the most dynamically developing economic areas in the world. Since 1978 it has grown by an average of almost 10% a year - more than Japan or the Asian tigers achieved over similar periods when their economies took off (Economist 2007). The social and economic development in Northern China is particularly water limited. ‘The areas north of the Yangtze have 65.4% of the cultivated land, 46.1% of population and 45.8% of the GDP of the country, but only 19% of the water resources.

The Yellow, Huai and Hai river basins especially, with 34% of the population and 33.3% of the GDP of China, have only 7.7% of the water resources. (Lui 2005)’. Droughts are frequently reoccurring and have severe socioeconomic consequences in Northern China. The recent drought period could be managed only by a drastic water rationing regime in the Northern Provinces and Beijing.

The planed South-North water transfer project which is going to become operational around 2010 will reduce only the most pressing water conflicts resulting from the chronic water scarcity. Further measures are needed to increase the efficiency of water use and to decrease the contamination of water.

The Guanting basin Northeast of Beijing is a major water source for the capitol. The supply rate can be regulated using the storage capacity of the Guanting reservoir. However, the once projected mean water discharge from the reservoir to the downstream area can only partly realised. Accumulation of sediments in the basin, low quality of the incoming water, high evapotranspiration losses and growing water use upstream set the limits. One consequence is a dramatic overdraft of the local groundwater resources in the Beijing area downstream.

The Improvement of the current situation is a complex task. The big water user and water contaminators i.e. agriculture, mining and basic sector industries deliver jobs and products that can not easily be substituted. Due to the existing structural restrictions and monetary limitation for policy changes and investments, the efficiency of measures for improving water availability and quality gains relevance. A River Basin Management Plan (RBMP) is a basic prerequisite for such an increase in efficiency.

For the Guanting basin a RBMP will be developed as a joint effort of Chinese and German research groups based on advanced models for water management and a comprehensive analysis of available management options and its effect. The RBMP  anticipates not only current request but also future changes in climate and society. Climate change is a potential thread that might aggravate current water conflicts in Northern China dramatically and is therefore particularly addressed.

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