"Water Feeding Water" - A New Type of Water Supply Association in Rural China
State involvement in public service functions in Chinese rural areas has steadily decreased in the wake of reforms and the development of the private sector. A prominent example of this is the field of rural water supply facilities, where the life expectancy of a vast range of technical schemes failed to be more than a few years in most cases. At the same time, the bottleneck of dwindling water resources has become a major challenge. The experience of a foreign-assisted development aid project in Shandong province demonstrates an alternative grass-roots approach to the regulatory framework, which is normally provided in a top-down fashion by policies. The experimental establishment of the first rural water association in one township marked the beginning of a spin-off development creating similar associations in other townships in several other counties and culminated in the establishment of the first county-wide organisations. This innovation is now on the verge of serving as a model on a much wider regional scale. The paper analyses the long processes of implementation and their implications for economically efficient and ecologically sound water management in rural China.
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