Shenzhen Water Situation

Overall Situation

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality

Shenzhen encompasses 11 water systems consisting of 362 rivers, each with a basin area exceeding 1 km2 and summing to a combined total length of 1,255 km. Seven of these rivers have a basin area of over 100 km2. The city has built 183 reservoirs with a total storage capacity of 973 million m3. The water surface area totals 81.84 km2, accounting for some 4.1% of the gross land area of Shenzhen. To date, 26 water conservation zones have been designated to cover a total area of 361.6 km2, taking up 33% of the areas circled by the basic ecological control line. Out of these zones, first-grade and second-grade classifications occupy 115.91 km2 and 134.49 km2, respectively.

Shenzhen has no large rivers, rather it consists of rain-dependent rivers and streams. Small in environmental capacity, prone to pollution, and weak in self-cleaning ability, these waters are widely contaminated, 159 of which have been included in the national list of black and odorous water bodies.

Water resources: In 2019, Shenzhen saw its per capita access to water resources standing at 154.54 m3, a level equal to 1/13th of the nationwide average. It therefore comes as little surprise it is one of the cities struggling with acute water shortages. The total water supply in Shenzhen amounts to 2,062 million cubic meters, of which 85.40% needs to be diverted from Dongjiang River, a water source outside the city.

Water security: Shenzhen is prone to typhoons and rainstorms, with annual rainfall distributed unevenly; up to 86% of precipitation is concentrated from April to September every year. Brief, heavy rainfalls and extreme rainstorms take place frequently. The multi-year average precipitation reaches 1,935.8 mm and the annual average rainfall days number 144.


Current Challenges

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality

With the rapid economic development and accelerated urbanization, Shenzhen has been expanding far beyond the expected scale. High-intensity development and high-density human settlements have posed severe challenges to water resources, water environment, and water ecosystems in the city. At present, there are six major goals for future water management, and to reach them, each has its outstanding issues.

Water-saving The non-conventional water sources take a relatively low proportion in the water resources portfolio. Shenzhen lags behind the international benchmark in terms of water use efficiency, and the water pipeline leakage ratio is quite high. Currently, the number of government agencies, companies, and schools included under the water-saving initiative is inadequate. The water resources from rainfalls and floods in the small-size reservoirs are not effectively utilized.

Water supply The tap water supply relies heavily on similar and limited sources, and the water supply network is not robust enough. Additionally, the water quality needs to be improved, and there is a gap between the current water supply and the estimated future water consumption.

Flood control The city faces the challenge of rectifying the insufficient control and prevention capacity for extreme storms and floods as well as existing weaknesses in the standing infrastructure. Some areas still suffer from outstanding waterlogging issues, while in others, buried culverts are found with safety hazards.

River and lake eco-landscape Most rivers are of poor water quality. The weak rain-sewage shunting pipeline network makes it difficult for rivers to reach quality standards during the rainy season. The sewage management is not delicate and comprehensive enough to cover more details and stronger water pollution source control is in urgent need. Meanwhile, river channels, commonly canalized and hardened with deterioration lack sufficient shoreline space for effective management thereby posing challenges to the water ecosystem restoration. The waterfront spaces are of poor quality and call for more city-water integration.

Water projects and engineering infrastructure Business integration needs to be enhanced. The depth and coverage of projects related to water affairs need to be further expanded to include more factors. Construction safety is massive challenge, sites are often messy and have frequent accidents. The construction and site supervision activities are understaffed with insufficient professionalism. The current political integrity monitoring mechanism is not robust enough. The messy water project construction sites do not fit into the urban environment.

Future Goals

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality
  1. Water-saving city development Goal: By 2025, Shenzhen will lead the country in building a water-saving system with the water consumption per RMB10,000 of GDP reduced below 6m3, the reclaimed water utilization rate reaching 80%, and the water pipeline leakage rate dropping below 7%.

  2. Water supply system with high availability and quality Goal: By 2025, two water sources will be available in Shenzhen, and two intra-city reservoirs will be connected. All water plants and residential communities will be coupled to two water supply sources and a 90-day emergency water reserve will be designed. Meanwhile, citywide access to potable water will be realized.

  3. Vertical flood control and drainage structure Goal: Shenzhen will follow the strategy of “building a sponge city to address water-related issues with a vertical approach” to form a vertical flood control and drainage system that offers surface-, shallow-, and deep-layer handling capacity. By 2025, sponge city areas will cover 50% of Shenzhen’s total. The city will enhance its flood control capacity to handle the 200-year flood events. Specifically, its central city area will be able to deal with waterlogging events with a 50-year return period, effectively withstanding up to a precipitation level of 90mm/hour or of 200mm/3 hours.

  4. Beautiful river and lake eco-landscape Goal: In 2025, the water quality of rivers in Shenzhen will reach at least Grade IV (suitable for industrial use and entertainment use with no direct human contact). Of these, the main rivers will reach Grade III (suitable for general industrial use after filtration and cleaning). The water environment will be aligned with the advanced international level. Shenzhen will also lead the province to complete the 1,000km eco-belts to realize beautiful river and lake eco-landscapes.


Benchmark Projects | Too Dirty: Maozhou River

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality

Along with the fast sci-tech development and rapid urbanization comes the pressing issue of water pollution. As a city enjoying booming development, Shenzhen has taken active actions to tackle river pollution and achieved outstanding success.

Maozhou River runs on the border between Shenzhen and Dongguan through Guangming and Bao’an in Shenzhen and Chang’an Town in Dongguan, covering a basin area of 388 km2 with a total length of 31.3 km. Accelerated economic and social development coupled with explosive population growth introduced by industrialization and urbanization have loaded Maozhou River with excessive pollution.

In recent years, by carrying through Xi Jinping Thought on Ecological Civilization and decision deployment by the CPC Central Committee, Shenzhen has fostered the green governance view of “improving people’s livelihood and promoting development through water treatment”. Thus, Maozhou River treatment became the core of winning the battle against pollution. With clearly defined goals, well-designed projects, practical measures, and fast and strong implementation, Shenzhen was able to improve the water quality at an unprecedented speed. The success lies in the guiding principle of “coordinated efforts and systematic treatment”. The result was highly praised by the local citizens.

With all the improvement achieved, Shenzhen Aquatic Sports Training Center decided to settle down next to the Maozhou River and the dragon boat race has come back to people’s life after years of suspension. China Central TeleVision (CCTV), the national broadcaster, also covered the story of the Maozhou River Water Environment Project in its documentary series, including Development Achievements of China and Beautiful China. The “ink river” dreaded by the local people in the past has transformed into the “eco-green river” loved by the citizens. The water environment has been turned from the “negative urban asset” into the “true asset” of the city, bringing back the landscape of clear water, green riverside, and thriving eco-environment.

Benchmark Projects | Too Much: Shenzhen River

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality

Shenzhen River originates from the south slope of the Niuwei Hill in Beihai, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and runs into the Shenzhen Bey southwesterly, marking the border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong. The river is 37-kilometer long, covering a basin area of 312.5 km2 (60% in Shenzhen and 40% in Hong Kong). Its main tributaries include Shawan River, Buji River, Futian River, and Huanggang River in Shenzhen, as well as the Ng Tung River and the Ping Yuen River in Hong Kong. Before the project, the average width of the upstream river channel was 15 meters, the middle reach was 40-45 meters, and the estuary was 140 meters. The drainage capacity of the river could only handle 2-year to 5-year floods. The backwater effect adds even more burden on the river, resulting in regular flooding and threats to the life and properties of the people living alongside the river.

As early as in December 1981, the Shenzhen municipal government started negotiation with the Hong Kong colonial government at that time about the river treatment issue and convened the joint steering group attending to the actual implementation. The three-phased river treatment plan was finalized in March 1985. The first phase was to straighten the two meanders of the Liu Pok-Yumin Village segment and the Futian-Lok Ma Chau segment. The second phase was to remediate the segments on the downstream of the Luohu Bridge (including widening, dredging, and straightening of the river channel). The third phase was to remediate the segments on the upper stream of the Luohu Bridge. Since the completion of the first phase in April 1997, Shenzhen was hit by the extreme rainstorm in May 1998 with a record-high precipitation level of 389mm and another two extreme rainstorm events on Jun 16, 2008, and August 29, 2018, respectively, but the middle and lower reaches of the Shenzhen River was kept safe from flooding.

Quiet and wide river course embanked with neat dikes and revetments stretching on both banks is running with clearer water towards the improved estuary eco-environment. The thriving green sceneries on the banks welcome the migrating birds on its beautiful landscape. The project is an example of excellent collaboration between Shenzhen and Hong Kong to overcome the challenges posed by different social systems, legal concepts, and working modes and to have come up with effective, unique cooperation model and operation mechanism which have exerted profound significance of the era.

Benchmark Projects | Too Little: Dongjiang Water Source Project

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality

The Dongjiang Water Source Project aimed at finding a long-term solution to the water shortage issue in Shenzhen. With the approval of the State Development Planning Commission and the People’s Government of Guangdong Province, the Shenzhen municipal government launched the large inter-basin water diversion initiative with an investment of 4.2 billion yuan (around 600 million USD) as one of the two water diversion projects from outside Shenzhen (the other one is the Dongjiang-Shenzhen Water Supply Project). The project provides 50% of the diverted water from outside Shenzhen and is, thus, called the “Lifeline Project” by the Shenzhen citizens.

For the Lifeline Project, water was diverted from the segment of the Dongjiang River at the Shuikou Sub-district and the segment of Xizhijiang River at the Ma’an Town, Huizhou. The 106-kilometer trunk lines of the diversion project run through two pumping stations, 6 towns/sub-districts in two districts in Huizhou, and 12 sub-districts in 7 districts in Shenzhen. The water pools into four reservoirs (Songzikeng, Xili, Tiegang, and Shiyan). The “diversion lines-plus-reservoirs” (gourds on vines) structure covers the entire water supply network in Shenzhen.

Up to now, the major facilities involved in the project include 6 pump stations (Dongjiang River, Xizhijiang River, and Yonghu Lake in Huizhou; Laihu Lake, Shawan, and Yantian in Shenzhen), 17 tunnels (with a combined length of 73.8km), box culverts (15.9km), pipes (12.5km), 7 aqueducts (with a combined length of 2.5km), 3 designated 110 kV transformer stations, drainage siphon pipes, and auxiliary facilities including the water shunting facility, service breaks, and inspection shafts.

In the past 19 years, Dongjiang Water Source Project serves as the “lifeline” of the entire city and has diverted over 9 billion cubic meters of water, thus playing an indispensable role in the sustainable, healthy development of the economy and the society in Shenzhen. It has protected Shenzhen from the droughts, supplied almost 50% of the residents’ water use demand in Shenzhen every year, and directly and indirectly contributed to almost a third of the local GDP. It is fair to say that the project has injected continuous dynamism to the booming development of Shenzhen.

Benchmark Project | Sponge City: Vanke Cloud City

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality

The Vanke Could City project is located in the basin area of the Shenzhen Bay. The Vanke Could City project is located in the basin area of the Shenzhen Bay where rainwater is drained to the Dasha River system via the Chaguang waterway; both are not black odorous water bodies. The booming urban growth, however, has exposed the vulnerability of the waterfront eco-environment that is barely protected. The water quality deteriorates during the dry seasons, offering no landscape function. The new residential project needs to consider the sewage system with source control to alleviate the burden on the municipal pipeline network and the waterlogging while reducing the nonpoint source pollution, therefore, rainwater control at the source is of vital importance.

The Vanke Cloud City is an intensive architecture and residential area construction with high density, which share many features with many other similar urban residential projects: full-basement design with thin overburden layer, and high requirements on landscaping and utility. The project also has its unique features, including scattered land lots, various purposes of land use, different heights of the buildings, and shallow groundwater depth.

The goals and principles of the rainwater system were developed based on the existing problems and demands to explore the sponge city solution suitable for the high-density development in Shenzhen. The principles to follow for the project are to integrate eco-elements into the landscaping plan to develop locally specific design ensuring safety, coordinated construction, and optimized financing. Based on these requirements, the project combines the ecosystem restoration of the quarry and the green corridor design to adopt the technical solutions such as green roof, permeable pavement, rainwater garden, sunk greenbelt, and rainwater recycling. The “grey going with green” strategy leverages multiple means, including permeation, retention, detention, filtration, utilization, and drainage to provide pleasant landscape enjoyment, reduce rainwater runoff, and improve water quality.

About the Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality is the country's first urban water affairs bureau established in 1993. It is a government department in charge of the city's water administration. Its key responsibility is water affairs management, including water planning and construction, water supply, water saving management, water pollution control, comprehensive river management, drainage management, water ecological construction, water administration law enforcement and smart water construction. It is in charge of the city's river chief system, lake chief system, sponge city construction. It directs the water affairs of each district, and manages the industry of the city's water affairs enterprises.

Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality thrives to meet the high-quality water demand for a better life of the people in the new era. It closely focuses on Shenzhen’s new positioning and mission as a “first demonstration area of ​​socialism with Chinese characteristics and an example of a modern and powerful socialist country”. Taking the major opportunity of the development of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau Greater Bay Area, it aims at becoming the comprehensive implementation of the river/lake chief system, water pollution prevention and control demonstration city; the national sponge city construction demonstration city; the national smart water demonstration city; the water technology innovation and industrial incubation test city. It targets at becoming an international, innovative, livable, ecological and charming bay area.

In order to stand at the forefront of the national water affairs field, Bureau of Water Resources of Shenzhen Municipality has comprehensively benchmarked the world's highest standards in various fields, aspects and elements, and dared to demonstrate first to provide a strong ecological, healthy and safe water guarantee for Shenzhen's reform and innovative development, and to create a beautiful and ecological environment with clear waters and green banks.