China Hebei: Storage and use of rainwater (#352)

The Hebei province is experiencing severe water shortages resulting in serious environmental and socio-ecological problems. To combat these issues, the provincial government has encouraged rainwater utilisation for agriculture as well as improving soil and water conservancy and vegetation cover. The most important lesson is that rainwater is able to alleviate water shortage particularly in dry season or dry zones.

Hebei province is located in Haihe water basin in North China Plain. Its area is 187,700km2, in which cultivated land is 6,120,000 hm2. The population is 68 millions. Water resources amount 306m3/capita. Due to scarcity of water, the impact on grain yield is more than 3 billion kg; on industrial output is dozens billion Yuan. It causes series of ecological and environmental problems such as a dry of rivers, degradation of wetland, intrusion of seawater, extension of seawater, serious overexploitation of ground water, subsidence of land surface and buildings.

The average rainfall is 532 mm in the province, with very uneven distribution, in which 13% is in the peak time of water use. It makes drought more obvious; 70% ~ 80% is in the wet season, which is apt to cause flood. How to use the storm water resources is one important step toward the solution of water scarcity.

Actions taken

Hebei provincial government has attached a great importance to the scarcity of water. It has given a full support to use of storm water. In 1989, the guidance on “focus both on flood and drought control” and “focus on prevention, integration of storage and discharge, scientific regulation, full effort on security, and more storage” were developed.

The following principles were applied: - Improving soil and water conservancy and vegetation cover - Modifying the cultivation structure to use more rainwater for farm land - Employing the water works to harvest rainwater - Establishing ties between watercourses - Modeling of hydro-geological and hydrographical scenarios to model flood forecasts.


Multilateral cooperation included 19 sectors, including planning, finance, metrology, agriculture, forestry, environmental prevention, civil affairs, communication, transportation, construction and so forth, to implement the operation and distribution of rainwater. 

Annual training course to local authorities and individuals has been conducted toward effective storage and use of rainwater each year. 

Control of pollutants: The total quantity control of water pollution, issued by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, is a principal standard filtering polluted ones. The rainwater harvesting from floods shall meet the standard of total quantity control of water pollution.

Lessons learnt

  • Scientific regulation of storm water is an effective measure of increasing available water resources.
  • The successful use of storm water must be supported by reliable flood control engineering facilities, scientific regulation plan, and decision supporting system which is integrated by automatic monitoring and specialists, unified regulation of commanding Stations at various levels.

This case has been implemented along with state master plan of flood control and drought relief which is effective for flood fighting and diversion. On the other hand, rainwater, as available water resources, is able to alleviate water shortage particularly in dry season or dry zones.