China Hebei: Development and management of groundwater irrigation in Hengshui (#312)

Hebei has only met water demand through overdraft of deep groundwater, resulting in the formation of a groundwater overdraft depression. This issue is further exacerbated by saline water intrusion into the groundwater tables. The water administrative department has taken measures accounting for IWRM principles, for example by establishing the Water Users Association to encourage participatory management. The lesson learnt is the value of a participatory approach in management.


Water resources per capita in the Taocheng District of Hengshui City are only 120m3. Surface water in the district is in extreme shortage and most of shallow groundwater in the district is saline water. Water demand has been maintained by overdraft from deep groundwater for many years. 

This resulted in a deep groundwater table descending by 2m per year, and the formation of a groundwater overdraft depression funnel area of more than 6300km2 where the maximum ground depth reaches to 98m. This has been accompanied by serious problems such as ground settlement and saline water intrusion. 

Action taken

The water administrative department took measures taking into account approaches of IWRM. Also, it set up farmers Water User Associations (WUA).

Sound measures were applied, such as total quantity control, quota management, measuring water use at each family and encouraging economized users and penalizing over-users.

The Water Use Certificates were distributed to each farmer family and water use. A guide on water saving techniques were provided to the water users. The application of these measures has served to reduce groundwater overdraft.

The case has shown that: 

  • the establishment of farmers WUA promoted the participation of stakeholders;
  • by approaches of integrated management combined with government unified management and water users’ water saving self-management, the water-using relationship was improved and the water use efficiency was improved.

Lessons learned

It is ineffective to pay attention only to technical measures while ignoring administrative measures. 
Establishing WUA, distributing Water Use Certificates and carrying out water saving self-management is a good way of mobilising stakeholders.

Photo credit: Global Water Forum