Despite having explored various modes of water management over the past three decades, the water crisis persists and the Chinese government has been required to revolutionize river management from the top down. The River Chief System (RCS), which evolved from small scale, local efforts to manage rivers starting in 2007, is an innovative system that coordinates between existing ‘fragmented’ river/lake management and pollution control systems, to clearly define the responsibilities of all concerned departments. The system was promoted from an emergent policy to nationwide action in 2016, and ever since, has undergone steady development. We have analyzed recent developments in the system from the perspectives of functional expansion, implementation strategies, legislative processes, and public outreach after the full implementation of the RCS. By collecting data over the past several years, the changes in the water quality of representative watersheds in China were evaluated to assess the outcomes of RCS implementation. Finally, a summary of the weaknesses and outstanding problems of the system is presented, putting forward a multi-channel strategy for the long-term stability and effectiveness of river/lake chiefs, and promoting the RCS as a suitable solution to the collaborative and jurisdictional issues in water management in China.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited