World Bank To Support Water Conservation and Protect Ancient Well Systems in China's Xinjiang

June 17, 2010

WASHINGTON, June 17, 2010 –The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a loan of $100 million to the People’s Republic of China to assist in water resources management in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, contributing to the country’s goal of building a water-saving society. 


The Turpan Prefecture, in the eastern part of Xinjiang, has a population of nearly 600,000 people. The Turpan Basin area has a hot and arid continental climate, with rainfall averaging less than 20 mm annually. Farmers have traditionally relied on water from rivers that originate in the mountainous areas, or from ancient Karez water supply systems for irrigation of their crops and orchards. But with rapid economic growth in recent years, increasing consumption of water is exceeding supply, leading to severe groundwater over-exploitation. Consequently, groundwater tables are declining by an average of 1.5 to 2 meters per year. Less than 300 of the 1,237 ancient Karez systems that existed in 1957 have running water today. The disappearance of the Karez system has, in turn, led to the degradation of the oasis ecosystems in the Turpan Basin.


The Xinjiang Turpan Water Conservation Project is designed to support the government’s efforts to reverse the deteriorating water situation and improve water resources management in the arid Turpan Basin, by reducing groundwater overdraft, increasing industrial and domestic water supply, and raising farmers’ income from irrigated agriculture.  


The World Bank and local government will jointly pilot various innovative water-saving approaches in the project. Specifically, an evapotranspiration-based integrated water management system will be introduced for the assessment, planning and allocation of water for consumptive use, supported by the world’s latest remote sensing technology on evapotranspiration measurement. More than 30 water user associations will be established to enable local Uygur farmers to participate in the process of project design, construction, supervision, and implementation of water rights.  Three reservoirs will be constructed to improve flood control in three main watersheds, increase water supplies downstream, and maintain minimum ecological river flows.


Various measures will be adopted to bring about real water savings, including s construction or rehabilitation of the main canals delivering water from the three new reservoirs to water users downstream, a switch from furrow to drip irrigation, land leveling, canal lining, and improved drainage. Support will also be provided to the rehabilitation of one of the Karez water supply systems that date back over 2,000 years and continue to be in use in the Turpan basin. It will serve as a pilot for preserving more of the remaining ancient water supply systems.


While strengthening integrated water resources planning and allocation to contribute to socio-economic development in Xinjiang, the project also has the objective to help preserve the oasis ecosystems and the ancient Karez systems in the Turpan Basin, which is a valuable cultural heritage in Xinjiang, said project team leader and World Bank Senior Irrigation Specialist Jiang Liping. 


The project builds on the success and lessons of recent Bank-funded projects in China, including the Tarim Basin II Project implemented in southern part of Xinjiang from 1999 to 2004.

Media Contacts
In Washington DC
Elisabeth Mealey
Tel : (202) 4584475
In Beijing
Li Li
Tel : 86-10-5861 7850