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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

This chapter brings together the physical hydrology of the river catchment and the estuary, population growth and water demand, management of wastewater and polluting behaviours, people’s trust in the government, and the styles of government decision-making to model the possible futures for Shanghai’s water supply using a Bayesian Belief Network. Three scenarios, each with two variants, are modelled: high growth rate with an authoritarian socio-political order; slower growth, authoritarian and inflexible; slower growth, flexible, participatory and pluralist. The variants are environmental states: (a) the environment imposes increasing challenges; (b) the environment is relatively benign. This model combines quantitative forecasting techniques with a qualitative understanding of broader structural changes. The results indicate that lower growth leads to a greater quantity of water in the Changjiang and that more inclusive forms of governance have additional benefits for water quality, water quantity and trust in the water that is delivered.

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Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

Chapter 9 reinforces the central messages of this book. The Changjiang, government institutions, infrastructures and ordinary people comprise an assemblage of interacting actors. The river is a central actor that depends on inputs from the precipitation system, perhaps modified by land uses, dams, extractions and pollution. The river’s interactions with the tidal system produce a propensity to salt intrusions that can interrupt Shanghai’s water supply. Whether or not people drink this water depends on the cleanliness of the water but more on their willingness to trust the government bureaucracies to supply clean water. In other words, technical choices about forms of infrastructure and water management not only have political bases but also have political consequences. An important consequence of this conclusion is that policy models have different effects in different places: the management of water expresses hydrologic processes, and social–political–economic structures.

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Water Supply in a Mega-City

A Political Ecology Analysis of Shanghai

Michael Webber, Jon Barnett, Brian Finlayson and Mark Wang

With the increasing threat of depleted and contaminated water supplies around the world, this book provides a timely and much needed analysis of how cities should manage this precious resource. Integrating the environmental, economic, political and socio-cultural dimensions of water management, the authors outline how future mega-city systems can maintain a high quality of life for its residents.
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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.

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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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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

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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

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

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.