The email I received from TWC touted the system:
A new groundwater management system in Qinxu, China is a promising solution:
- Farmers are allocated quotas of how much water they can pump out.
- The quota, and how much of it they have used, is registered on a swipe card they can use to access any well in the village.
- All wells are monitored by a county-level information system. The system updates the usage data everytime a card is used. A higher tariff is charged for usage over and above the quota limit.
- People are allowed to trade unused units from their quota.
Here is the blurb:
The Qinxu Groundwater Management System, masterminded by Professor Fan Guishang from Tanjuan University of Technology University, regulates all groundwater usage in the Qinxu, one of the counties in Shanxi Province in China.
Under the system, all 1473 wells in the county have been equipped with an automatic operating system that farmers operate with individual swipe cards. The amount of water that can be used is based on a quota that is allocated annually.
The system also comprises of 60 solar-powered groundwater observation wells, that continuously transmit groundwater-related data to a county-level information centre.
The quota are determined first for each of the 197 villages within the county, and then for each farmer within the village. The quota vary from area to area, and depend on the groundwater resources sustainably available. The quota can also also traded – between villages and between farmers.
Read more on the topic from Frank van Steenbergen:
Since Lester Brown’s seminal book “Who will feed China?” many eyes have been watching the Achilles heel of global agriculture: the over-pumping of ground water in the world’s two largest countries, China and India.
The dry northern plains of China produce half of the country’s wheat and one-third of its corn. They do so by using groundwater at a rate that greatly exceeds the way at which it is replenished. The estimate is that no less than 130 Million people in China depend for their staple food on the unsustainable use of groundwater. Groundwater levels have dropped by a meter a year over large parts of Hebei, Hunan, Shanxi. The ramifications are enormous: once China runs out of groundwater, it would have to resort to the world market for its grains, thus skyrocketing food prices all over the globe.
But here is an answer: the Qinxu Groundwater Management System. This system, masterminded by Professor Fan Guishang from Taiyuan University of Technology University, regulates all groundwater usage in the Qinxu, one of the counties in Shanxi Province. It took five years to set it up, but this is a short time for a system that has all the features of a dream coming true.
What the Qinxu Groundwater System has done is equipped all 1473 wells in the county with an automatic operating system that farmers operate with individual swipe cards. The amount of water that can be used is based on a quota that is allocated annually.
The quota are determined first for each of the 197 villages within the county, and then for each farmer within the village. The quota vary from area to area, and depend on the groundwater resources sustainably available. The quota for families are based on the land owned, the number of family members and the livestock owned. If water is used within the quota, the price is ¥ 0.41 (Euro 0.05) per unit. If the water-use exceeds the quota, the price is raised to ¥ 0.55. The units indicate the number of electricity units consumed. As some wells are very shallow and others deep, the volume of water drawn using one unit may vary from 500 to 5000 litres.
Quota are also traded – between villages and between farmers. There is an upper limit to the price (twice the basic amount) – which cannot be exceeded. Among farmers it is more common to share ‘excess water’ with family members and neighbours than to trade.
The swipe card transactions are transmitted through internet to the Digital Water Resource Information Centre in the Water Resources Bureau of the county. This centre meticulously record the number of units consumed by each farmer based on his swipe card transactions.
"A book tightly shut is but a block of paper." - Chinese proverb