Improving Water and Wastewater Services for the Residents in Ningbo

November 6, 2012


The Ningbo Water and Environment Project helped ensure safer and more reliable water supply for Ningbo residents and increased wastewater treatment rate for Cixi residents.


Supported by the World Bank and Global Environment Facility (GEF), the two interrelated Ningbo Water and Environment Projects helped ensure safer and more reliable water supply for 2.5 million residents in Ningbo City and increased wastewater treated from about 10 percent to 65.4 percent for one million residents in Cixi City, improved the quality of life and environment, restored the natural wetlands of Hangzhou Bay and promoted rapid economic growth.


Ningbo, a port city located on China’s east coast in Zhejiang Province is an economic powerhouse. However, in 2005, the city faced a two dimensional water crisis – frequent shortage and poor water quality which impeded economic growth and endangered public health. The Ningbo Water Supply Company (NWSC) drew water primarily from highly polluted local rivers and used outdated treatment technology that limited the quality of piped water. Due to lack of storage of reservoirs and reliance on local rivers, Ningbo City often experienced water shortages during the dry season.

Cixi City, located north of Ningbo City on the shore of Hangzhou Bay, has a rapidly expanding economy. But only ten percent of its wastewater was treated in 2005, and heavy pollution loads were flowing directly to the environmentally sensitive Hangzhou Bay, creating environmental and public health concerns, and inhibiting potential investments.


The loan operation was designed to facilitate the expansion and quality of water and wastewater services in an economically efficient and environmentally sustainable manner, by increasing the percentage of water supplied from high quality and reliable water sources and treatment plants in Ningbo City, and increasing the percentage of wastewater collected and treated in Cixi City.

The project financed investments in a water supply line consisting of a water intake tower and a tunnel, a water treatment plant, and treated water transmission pipes in Ningbo City, and two water treatment plants, sewers, and pumping stations in Cixi City. In addition, the project provided technical assistance to improve water planning, utility price and service regulation, and to enhance the operational and business management capacities of the Ningbo Water Supply Company and Cixi Municipal Sewage Company.

The operation financed under GEF supported a constructed wetland designed to provide tertiary treatment for North Cixi wastewater treatment plant, restored natural wetlands in Hangzhou Bay and established an educational and research center for wetland management.

" It improves the environment, and if there were no wetlands here, it’d be a commercial place with buildings, and birds and plants would have nowhere to go. "

Jing Zhang

a tourist


The World Bank and GEP-funded projects helped achieved substantial results in several key areas:

  • The project increased the water treatment capacity of Ningbo City by 500,000 m3/d. Nearly 90 percent (2.5 million) of the city’s population now enjoys high quality water, in contrast to 23 percent (1.5 million) in 2006. Nine of the 25 townships had already switched to the new water supply under water sales agreements with NWSC; and construction of new water distribution systems to service five townships in Beilun and Zhenhai was also in progress.
  • With the two new wastewater treatment plants with a combined capacity of 150,000 m3/d, Cixi City achieved a wastewater treatment capacity/coverage of 80 percent for the urban districts, 60 percent for the rural townships and 100 percent for industrial discharges located within industrial parks, greatly reducing pollution loads discharged to the Hangzhou Bay.
  • The constructed wetlands at both wastewater plants in Cixi City enhanced the final effluent quality to Class IA standards, demonstrating the feasibility of using constructed wetlands for tertiary treatment at lower costs. Municipal leaders from around China have visited the site to learn from this experience and are adopting the approach in new projects.
  • Freshwater wetlands were restored in a 330 ha area on reclaimed coastal land in Cixi, creating a variety of wetland habitats supporting biodiversity of the area. The Cixi wetlands which would have likely disappeared without the project’s intervention have now become a National Wetlands Park attracting many bird watchers and tourists. 
  • A world-class Wetland Center was established with highly innovative media for educating the public on birdlife.

Bank Contribution

The World Bank provided an IBRD loan of US$130 million and also introduced international experience and best practices for project management, bid tendering and contracting, construction supervision, performance evaluation.


The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provided a grant of US$5 million to enhance the outcomes of the lending project by supporting Cixi’s efforts to manage its coastal resources and adopt simple and ecologically friendly wastewater treatment methods that could be replicated and managed in a sustainable manner.

Toward the Future

In 2010, the Bank approved a loan of US$50 million to support the Ningbo New Countryside Development Project extending wastewater management to about 150 selected villages and enhancing water supply networks and wastewater collection and treatment facilities in Chunhu Town of Fenghua City in Ningbo Municipality.


"It improves the environment, and if there were no wetlands here, it’d be a commercial place with buildings, and birds and plants would have nowhere to go."  -  Zhang Jing, a visitor

"This improves the income of the locals, staff is all local, boat drivers, they’re local, they know their way around here and so provide better service."  - Yuan Shanping, a worker