The PRC has developed rapidly. From 1978 to 2008, its economy grew by about 10% per year on average. This rapid economic growth has depended in part on reservoirs, which
have been important in flood control, irrigation, hydropower generation, and water supply. The reservoirs in the PRC have a total storage capacity of about 554 billion cubic meters (m3), about one-sixth of the total yearly runoff nationwide. They control an irrigation area of about 16 million hectares (ha), about one-third of the country's total irrigation area. Their total generation capacity of about 70 million kilowatts is about one-third of the total national power generation. The reservoirs provide about 500 billion m3 of water supply yearly, about 20 billion m3 of this for household use. In 1998, 1,335 large and medium-sized reservoirs in the PRC stored about 53 billion m3 of floodwater and protected more than 200 cities and 2.3 million ha of farmland from flooding, reducing the number of people who fell victim to flooding by 27.4 million.
The PRC has 87,085 reservoirs. About 90% were built during the period of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution (1958-1976), using outdated and low technical
standards and inadequate plans, surveys, designs, and construction. Most of these reservoirs have been used for 30-50 years, and many of the water-retaining dams and equipment are damaged and need to be repaired and strengthened. Many of the reservoirs do not meet modern safety standards.
The PRC has three safety classes of reservoirs according to the Safety Assessment Methods for Dams and the Guidelines on Dam Safety Assessment. In the class III (most
unsafe) category are 37,032 reservoirs, 43% of the total. The potential failure of class III reservoirs threatens lives and property downstream. In 1954-2007, 3,503 reservoirs-an
average of 65 reservoirs each year-collapsed and killed at least 27,876 people in the PRC.
The storage water level of many reservoirs was originally designed to match the hydrometeorological features of the watershed and downstream water demand. Now, however,
many endangered reservoirs do not store water up to the design level because of water leakage, instability of water-retaining dams, and inadequate spillway capacity for emergency
discharge of rapidly rising floodwaters. As a result, these endangered reservoirs cannot control floods, supply irrigation water, generate hydropower, or provide household water year-round to users. Strengthening these reservoirs will increase water supply at a lower cost and with less adverse impact on the environment and people than building new reservoirs. Strengthened reservoirs will also have potentially positive benefits downstream, especially on the environment, by increasing reservoir releases for environmental flow. The 1,346 reservoirs that were recently rehabilitated are estimated to have increased the storage capacity by 500 million m3, equivalent to the increase in capacity from the construction of 540 new medium-sized reservoirs. The cost of reservoir rehabilitation per cubic-meter increase in storage capacity (CNY2-CNY3) is lower than the cost of new reservoir construction (CNY6).
The government has given high priority to strengthening endangered reservoirs. The Ministry of Water Resources set up the National Reservoir Strengthening Program in 2001, with
financial assistance from the government. The first phase of this program has been successfully completed, and 1,346 reservoirs are now operating at design capacity. The second phase, involving the strengthening of 2,112 class III reservoirs, began in 2003. To speed up the rehabilitation of unsafe reservoirs, the third phase of the program was prepared in October 2007 specifically for 6,240 reservoirs, including those uncompleted in the second phase.
The National Reservoir Strengthening Program will be completed during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-2010). But reservoir rehabilitation will continue beyond the program. More than 30,000 unsafe reservoirs still have to be rehabilitated, and class I and II reservoirs, which are not part of the program, are foreseen to deteriorate and urgently need
rehabilitation. In addition, reservoirs rehabilitated under the program must be properly operated, maintained, and managed for safety and effective use; otherwise, the rehabilitation would have been futile. To address these issues, sustainable reservoir rehabilitation and management models should be established in a province where reservoir safety is a serious issue, and successful models should be replicated throughout the PRC.
Shandong Province, in the lower reaches of the Yellow River in northeastern PRC, has a population of about 92 million, the second largest in the PRC. It is among the country's
fastest-developing provinces, but it is also a province where water scarcity is most serious, with water resources per capita of about one-sixth of the national average. Saltwater intrusion into coastal catchments has rendered the available water resources less usable. Rapid economic development in recent years has been increasing the demand for water.
Reservoir safety is of great concern to Shandong Province, among other provinces in the PRC. Of its 5,820 reservoirs, 4,114-71%, the highest proportion in the country-are in the
most unsafe (class III) category. Reservoirs in the province collapsed 255 times and killed 225 people in 1966-2008, for a reservoir collapse ratio of 4.4%, much higher than the national average of 4.0%.
The People's Government of Shandong Province (SPG) recognizes the urgent need for reservoir rehabilitation as well as the importance of managing the rehabilitated reservoirs
properly to be able to use them safely and effectively for economic development. Besides the 137 class III reservoirs in Shandong Province that are included in the National Reservoir
Strengthening Program, other unsafe reservoirs in the province are being rehabilitated according to a plan drawn up by the SPG. But the provincial government is facing technological
and financing difficulties. It seeks methodologies for rehabilitating a huge number of unsafe reservoirs efficiently within a limited budget and for using the rehabilitated reservoirs safely and effectively for economic development.
The SPG has therefore requested a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to establish sustainable reservoir rehabilitation and management models, through the rehabilitation, management, monitoring, and evaluation of model reservoirs. ADB's assistance will give the SPG access to international expertise and experience in reservoir rehabilitation and
management. The established models will be used in Shandong Province and replicated throughout the PRC.
he project will contribute to integrated water resources management (IWRM) by establishing sustainable reservoir rehabilitation and management models, and is therefore in line with the priorities of ADB's water policy in promoting IWRM. The project is also in line with the country partnership strategy (2008-2010) for the PRC, which assigns priority to
environmental sustainability through more effective natural resources management, and supports the government's objectives in the water sector.
The project will have a direct positive impact on poverty reduction and the environment since it will (i) reduce the risk of reservoir failure and protect lives, property, and livelihoods
downstream, where poverty incidence is high; (ii) provide more water for agriculture and household use to the poor living downstream of the reservoirs; and (iii) improve the quantity of reservoir releases, especially in the dry season, to sustain wetlands and the health of flora and fauna, maintain fisheries, preserve water quality, and improve groundwater resources.