Strengthening a City's Water Resources and Flood Management Capacity

An ADB-funded project helped transformed the Jiashuyuan area into a place of interest. Photo credit: Jiaozhou Project Management Office.

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Keeping a city safe from flood and waterborne diseases requires a holistic approach to water resources management.


The protection of water resources is necessary for sustainable economic growth and better living conditions in cities. This is what the residents of Jiaozhou, a city in the People’s Republic of China, realized in the late 1990s when they started experiencing flooding and a high incidence of waterborne diseases.

The city government had already implemented water conservation and management projects, such as centralized wastewater treatment. However, they recognized the need to further improve their environmental management strategies to sustain their initial efforts.

A project supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) helped Jiaozhou take an integrated water management approach to reduce pollution and sustain river and coastal ecosystems.

Project Snapshot

  • 17 December 2008 : Approval Date
  • 13 February 2018 : Closing Date

  • $45 million : Amount of Loan


Jiaozhou, one of the five county-cities of Qingdao municipality, lies above Jiaozhou Bay, southeast of Shandong Peninsula. Qingdao (dubbed as “Eastern Switzerland”) surrounds Jiaozhou Bay in the Yellow Sea. This city has experienced rapid economic growth, averaging about 20% per annum in real terms since 2004, well above the national average. In 2007, the city’s population was 891,800—estimated to be increasing at an average annual rate of 1.12%. Rapid growth has resulted in considerable environmental stresses which threatened to erode progress in the area.

Development Challenges

Jiaozhou has faced flooding every 3 years, costing the city an average of more than CNY200 million (about US$28.7 million) in damages. The rate of waterborne diseases due to untreated wastewater and poor sanitation in the city is above the national average.

Jiaozhou Bay’s wetlands are seriously degraded, deteriorating by about 0.9% every year.  These coastal wetlands are the most important marine ecosystem in the Qingdao coastal region and the Shandong Peninsula. They provide breeding grounds for fish and shellfish and temporary shelter for migratory birds. They are also important for coastal biodiversity preservation, nutrients absorption to prevent eutrophication in the bay, and flood and coastal protection—which is increasingly significant to coastal cities as sea levels continue to rise as a result of global warming.

Moreover, water management efforts were fragmented. Strategies and implementation activities were uncoordinated as the different tasks (water supply, wastewater management, and drainage) associated with water management were handled by different agencies.  


Through the ADB-funded Qingdao Water Resources and Wetland Protection Project, Jiaozhou City adopted a holistic and integrated approach to water management of river basins and coastal zones, reduced land-based pollution sources particularly from industrial and urban sources, and reformed institutional and financial management to facilitate sustainable environmental management.

The project aimed to integrate water and ecosystem management through structural and non-structural measures. Through the project, 18.4 km of river courses were rehabilitated through river dredging, embankment works, and greening (Yunxi River 8.3 km, Hucheng River 3.9 km, Wushui River 3.2 km, and Hucheng River branch 3.0 km). A river monitoring and administration center was established to provide data on water quality and real-time river flow to facilitate the operation of control gates for flood prevention.  The Erli'he flood retention facilities were upgraded from 0.20 million cubic meters (m3) to 0.80 million m3. Storm sewerage facilities comprising 11.4 km were also constructed. The water quality of the rivers within Jiaozhou City has improved compared to pre-project levels. The operation and maintenance of the river works is the responsibility of the Jiaozhou City Construction Bureau. The city government levies a flood control management fee on all enterprises in the city, and this, together with wastewater collection fees are more than adequate to cover the operation and maintenance costs of the infrastructure constructed under the project.

Riverbank walkways, cycle paths, and other public amenity areas were constructed. Riverbank greening was also implemented. These complemented the rehabilitation of river embankments transforming the area into a place of interest in the urban city.

The project protected over 480,000 residents from flooding and associated loss of assets and livelihoods and hazards resulting from poor drainage.

Improvements in the project area led to an increase in the construction or improvement of residential and commercial buildings, influx of people, more business activities, and higher land and property value

Interceptor sewers, 27.7 km long along river embankments, were installed to collect and transport sewerage to the existing wastewater trunk sewerage system (15.9 km along the embankments of the Yunxi River, Hucheng River, and Hucheng River tributaries, plus 11.8 km expanding the existing trunk sewerage system).  In addition, a 1.7 km interceptor sewer was constructed on the Hucheng River branch.

The project incorporated a public-private partnership (PPP) model in wastewater treatment through a build-operate-transfer (BOT) arrangement with a 20-year contract. Wastewater services were also converted into commercial companies. This expanded the capacity of the existing wastewater treatment plant from 50,000 m3 to 100,000 m3. The treatment level was upgraded from class II to class IB and adapted to treat stormwater flows. This improved the water quality in the local river systems.

Improved wastewater and sewage treatment contributed to better sanitation. According to the Jiaozhou City Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidence of water-borne diseases decreased by 96% from 0.2888 per 10,000 people in 2008 to 0.01142 per 10,000 people in 2016 because of the project.

Moreover, the project reduced the extent of environmental degradation in the coastal wetlands. An assessment in 2018 revealed that  72% of Jiaozhou Bay has improved its water quality⁠—6 percentage points higher than 2015’s.

Aside from flood protection infrastructure, artificial wetlands (Shaohai National Wetland Park, Erle’hi River Southwest Wetland Park, Yunxi Downstream Wetland Park) were constructed to enhance the coastal ecosystem. A Handbook for the Shaohai Lake Ecosystem Management and Operation was developed to help the Shaohai Lake Management Office in their monitoring efforts.

An integrated information system for flood, water, and wastewater management was also launched in 2017.

Staff from the city government and project management office were trained on environmental protection and management and flood control. The same training was conducted for 413 participants from 9 villages, of which 161 (39%) were men and 252 (61%) were women. Likewise, public awareness and consultation were held in 8 villages with 196 participants, of which 73 (37%) were men and 123 (63%) were women.


The path to sustainable cities requires an integrated approach to water resources and environmental protection. Though it is an internationally accepted framework, this approach in practice has plenty of room for innovation. One is involving the people who benefited from project outcomes in the operation and recovery of costs for new investments.

Having reliable projections about local development scenarios based on careful project planning and analysis can help local governments in maximizing the potential of a water resource or environmental management investment particularly in fast-growing areas like Qingdao.

Rabindra P. Osti
Principal Climate Change Specialist, Climate Change, Resilience, and Environment Cluster, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Department, Asian Development Bank

Mr. Osti is a climate change focal for Asian Development Bank's South Asia Department. He also worked as senior water resources specialist for Southeast Asia Department of ADB. Prior to these roles, he served in various capacities for the United Nations and affiliated agencies. He has more than 25 years of working experience in Asia and the Pacific.


Asian Development Bank (ADB)

The Asian Development Bank is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region. Its main instruments for helping its developing member countries are policy dialogue, loans, equity investments, guarantees, grants, and technical assistance.

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