Promoting water stewardship in Industrial Parks in China


China’s rapid economic growth has led to a multitude of environmental issues. Industrialisation is causing environmental degradation, intensifying water scarcity, reducing water quality and increasing water pollution. Many industries are located within ‘Industrial Parks’, zones developed specifically for industrial development and one of the largest contributors to national GDP. These zones use large volumes of water in a range of production processes and release polluted water.

The Chinese Government has in recent years adopted strong policies to turn around this environmental crisis. It now emphasises development that balances economic growth with environmental protection and remediation and has initiated legal action against polluters. This political pressure has driven many industries to look for better models of water management such as water stewardship.

The concept of water stewardship emerged in Australia during the Millennium Drought, in response to pressure on industries to demonstrate sustainable water management. The system is designed to recognise and promote sustainable water management and help businesses and governments collaborate to improve their water use. Key pillars of the system are a Standard which outlines what good water stewardship is and Certification for recognising and rewarding good water stewards. The evolution of water stewardship from an Australian concept to a global system for managing water risk has recently been captured in AWP publication titled ‘The evolution of water stewardship: an Australian Perspective’ – available on the AWP website.

The convergence of China’s move to improve water management within Industrial Parks, and the framework that water stewardship provides to do this was recognised through Australia’s established relationship with China on environmental issues. In 2015, AWS established a water stewardship partnership with World Wildlife Fund (WWF) China, with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Initial work focussed on adoption of the water stewardship Standard and Certification by Ecolab, a company that provides water, hygiene and energy technologies.


The Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) has been working with industries across China to support them to adopt water stewardship. Water stewardship provides a Standard and Certification system to assist companies to use water in a more socially equitable, environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial way, through a stakeholder-inclusive process that involves site and catchment-based development options.

This activity builds on the momentum of the AWS-WWF collaboration to extend the adoption of water stewardship to more areas of China, with a focus on:

  • Supporting the development and adoption of the water stewardship framework
    in the Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (TEDA).
  • Supporting the development, adoption and implementation of the water stewardship framework in Kunshan City Industrial Clusters.


In Kunshan, a water stewardship pilot and subsequent training program have given 30 companies greater capacity to lead and implement water management and water governance reforms, with five companies officially adopting the system and working towards certification. The Kunshan city government is now supporting adoption of water stewardship – in 2018 it announced an incentive payment of $20,000 for companies achieving water stewardship certification.

In Tianjin Industrial Park, AWS is formulating a series of policy recommendations for the Park management committee that will promote the adoption of the water stewardship Standard across more than 330 factories in the Park.







Program Lead



East Asia & Pacific



Government of China


Complete (Aug 2016 – June 2018)