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Managing for Sustainability: The Development of Environmental Flows Implementation in China

1 and 2,*
1
State Key Laboratory of Simulation and Regulation of Water Cycle in River Basin, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing 100038, China
2
College of Hydrology and Water Resources, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(3), 433; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11030433
Received: 11 January 2019 / Revised: 22 February 2019 / Accepted: 25 February 2019 / Published: 28 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Related Disaster and Water Environment Management)
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Abstract

Environmental flows (e-flows) are important for river protection and restoration under degraded ecological conditions. With increasing public desire for and pursuit of sustainable development, e-flows are widely used to reflect the hydrological regime requirements for sustaining freshwater ecosystems and human livelihoods. Over the past 40 years, e-flows implementation has shifted from static minimum flows to dynamic flow components. However, e-flows standards used to manage flow releases from dams are to a great extent based on expert judgement and government supervision. These attributes make it difficult to effectively implement e-flows in the non-stationary world. The primary focus of this paper is to review the history, management systems and scientific basis of e-flows in China. Firstly, the study classifies the development phases into four periods and then analyses the underpinning legal system for e-flows implementation in each period, including the laws, regulations, policies and responsible authorities. Finally, the scientific basis and methods for e-flows determination and assessment were analyzed. The study showed that: (1) e-flows have been officially regarded as ecological flow in China, which evolved from minimum flow, and the contents and connotations are still broadening; (2) currently, there are too many authorities related to e-flows and complicated legal documents in China which lead to ineffective implementation; (3) the scientific basis of e-flows is enriched from the relationship between hydrological alteration and ecological response, so that the practices will be more holistic in China. Despite the successful practices of e-flows implementation in large rivers, there are challenges for implementing future e-flows in small rivers. This study recommended that future e-flows implementation be integrated with sustainable water management by setting clear responsibilities for governments, ministries, and other stakeholders. View Full-Text
Keywords: environmental flows; ecological flow; freshwater ecosystem; hydrological regime; water governance environmental flows; ecological flow; freshwater ecosystem; hydrological regime; water governance
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Chen, A.; Wu, M. Managing for Sustainability: The Development of Environmental Flows Implementation in China. Water 2019, 11, 433.

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