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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

This chapter introduces the problem that this book addresses: how do societies come to be constructed in such a way that residents cannot drink the water that is supplied to them? The example of the supply of water to Shanghai is taken as a case through which to examine this question. Shanghai, it is argued, is an assemblage of interacting actors. This book examines the properties and characteristics of four principal actors: the hydro-geological conditions and rivers that provide water; the people, corporations and institutions within Shanghai who use and pollute the water; the institutions of central and other governments that regulate the use of the rivers and the discharges into them; and the infrastructures that governments and corporations have built to manage the river. The chapter concludes by outlining the organisation of the chapters through which the book addresses the question.

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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

Shanghai is critically dependent on the Changjiang, China’s largest river, for its water supply. The flow is very stable from year to year but has strong seasonal variation with 70 per cent of flow in the summer season. The total flow is robust in the face of significant human influences. The annual flow is 900 billion cubic metres and only 0.55 per cent of this is taken for Shanghai’s water supply. No significant threats exist to the total volume of water available but there are threats from seasonal low flows, diversions of water to other users, deteriorating water quality and salt water intrusions that affect the main water supply intakes for Shanghai. The operation of the Three Gorges Dam has induced changes to the monthly flow regime, reducing flows in October to fill the dam before the low flow season and raising flows January to March as that water is used for power generation.

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Family Demography in Asia

A Comparative Analysis of Fertility Preferences

Edited by Stuart Gietel-Basten, John Casterline and Minja K. Choe

The demographic future of Asia is a global issue. As the biggest driver of population growth, an understanding of patterns and trends in fertility throughout Asia is critical to understand our shared demographic future. This is the first book to comprehensively and systematically analyse fertility across the continent through the perspective of individuals themselves rather than as a consequence of top-down government policies.
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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

Chapter 5 describes the major infrastructures that influence the discharge of the Changjiang, and the politics that underpinned their construction. Relying on the ideas of technopolitics, the chapter argues that technologies such as dams, levees and water diversions are social artefacts that have political roots but that nevertheless reflect understandings of the behaviour of the river. Three important infrastructures are described – the Three Gorges Dam, the Qingcaosha reservoir and the South–North Water Transfer Project. Each has a certain technical rationality – flood control, electricity production, water storage and providing water to relatively arid regions. Each, though, also has a political rationality – centralising political power, corporate revenue-seeking, inter-jurisdictional conflicts over water resources, and avoiding the need to directly control pollution. Engineering new infrastructures in each case has taken precedence over softer management options such as water demand management and pollution control.

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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

This chapter analyses the demand for, and supply of, water to Shanghai in relation to water quality and variations in availability. The population of Shanghai is growing rapidly. This and declining water quality in its traditional water supply sources has forced Shanghai to become mainly reliant on water from the Changjiang. Since annual water demand is 0.55 per cent of the river’s flow, the Shanghai government does not manage demand for water in the city. Meeting rising demand is dependent on maintaining and expanding the extraction, treatment and supply systems that are ageing and not capable of delivering potable water to consumers. Low flows in the winter season raise the risk of saltwater intrusions, disrupting the system (which has limited storage capacity). The complex intergovernmental responsibilities for water allow other agencies to build water projects (e.g. the South–North Water Transfer System) that are detrimental to Shanghai without considering Shanghai’s situation.

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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

Chapter 6 examines in detail the effects of the interaction of river and infrastructures on the quality of water in Shanghai. The specific risk analysed is that of salt intrusions into the estuary of the Changjiang, through which the water at Shanghai’s intake points becomes more saline than can be made potable in the water treatment plants. The chapter calculates the historical risks of salt intrusions severe enough to threaten Shanghai’s water supply and then examines how the constructions and operation of the Three Gorges Dam and the South–North Water Transfer Project are modifying those risks. Depending on the operating rules of these infrastructures, the risk of an intrusion that could disrupt Shanghai’s water supply has been more than doubled by these constructions.

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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

Chapter 4 explains the properties of China’s system of water management, as it relates to water supply in Shanghai. The chapter treats this system as an outcome of scale-making, in which socio-environmental regions – such as basins or jurisdictions – are constructed to serve water politics. The chapter introduces in turn China’s administrative hierarchy, with its divisions of responsibilities between ministries and overlapping responsibilities between different levels of government. New scales of government have emerged, such as river basin commissions and other reorganisations at a more local scale, and new attempts to manage the use of water and levels of pollution. The scales over which governments exercise power are being altered, partially in response to the scales at which corporations, non-government organisations and corporations act.

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Nahui Zhen

Chapter 7 investigates the relationship between two other actors within the Shanghai assemblage – the water-supplying institutions of the municipal government and the residents of the city. A survey of people in Shanghai indicates that people do not trust the water that is supplied to them – large majorities do not believe that state-owned water companies tell the truth about water quality, treat residents in different places equally or are competent to supply clean water. Larger numbers of aged people than young ones think water companies are fair. People who are less educated and people with rural hukou tend to have more trust in water companies. As a consequence, almost everyone treats water in some way before drinking it – they boil it, or filter it, or buy it in bottles – in order to remove contamination. As a result, drinking water absorbs a high proportion of residents’ disposable incomes.