Water Environment Management Policy

Comprehensive Measures for Supplying Clean Water

In 1993, the Comprehensive Measures for Supplying Clean Water (1993-1997) was established for packaged implementation of water management policies including water quality conservation, water resources management, drinking water supply, etc. The measures, which is established as a five-year plan, includes building wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) at a cost of KRW 2.16 trillion by 1996 and designating the two important drinking water sources as the ‘Special Water Conservation Area'. The total cost of the comprehensive measures was KRW 15.9 trillion.

Comprehensive Water Quality Improvement Measures on the Four Major Rivers

The Comprehensive Water Quality Improvement Measures on the Four Major Rivers (1996-2005) was aimed at improving the quality of all drinking water sources to Grade Ⅱ or better, enlarging the water reserve rate to 9%, and increasing the Multi-Regional Water Supply System ratio to 65%. KRW 26.9 trillion was invested in building the environmental infrastructures including WWTPs to achieve 80% of sewage population and distribution rate. New watershed management programs were introduced to build sustainable watershed communities including Total Water Pollution Load Management System, Designated Riparian Buffer Zones, Water Use Charge & Watershed Management Fund, Land Purchase Project, and Civilian Water Quality Monitoring Support System. 

Master Plan for Water Environment Management (2006~2015)

A Master Plan for Water Environment Management (2006-2015) was established in September 2006, as the follow-up of “Comprehensive Water Quality Improvement Measures on the Four Major Rivers”. The entire country was divided into 4 large-watershed, 117 mid-watershed, and 840 small-watershed regions. The master plans for large-watershed were drawn up by the Ministry of Environment (MOE) and those for mid-watershed and small-watershed were established by Regional/River Basin Environmental Office and local governments, respectively. According to the plan, by 2015, over 85% of all rivers in the country will be improved to be 'Fair' or 'Optimum' and 25% of all damaged rivers will be restored into ecologically healthy rivers. And 30% of riparian zones at drinking water sources will be turned into Riparian Ecological Belts.

River Basin Management

Total Water Pollution Load Management System

The first stage of Total Water Pollution Load Management System was carried out during 2004-2010 in total 66 cities and counties (26 on Nakdong River, 23 on Geum River, and 17 on Yeongsan River and Seomjin River). It appears that the target water quality and the annually allocated pollution load are generally in compliance with the initial plan. And local governments show interest in the system. Therefore, Total Water Pollution Load Management System is considered to be confirming its status.

Designated Riparian Buffer Zones

As storm water runoff can carry NPS pollutants directly into the surface water and deteriorate water quality, certain areas are designated Riparian Buffer Zone for intensive management. In the Designated Riparian Buffer Zones, the construction of new facilities such as restaurants, lodgings, public baths, factories and livestock barns are restricted to reduce the influence of both point source (PS) and NPS pollutants. The Ministry of Environment is gradually purchasing the land at Designated Riparian Buffer Zones in consultation with owners. The purchased land is restored to riparian green areas and served as the buffer zone for the control of NPS pollutants.

Land Purchase System

Land Purchase System is a program to purchase land or buildings located in areas that have a great impact on the water quality such as those in riparian buffer zones and other water source protection areas, in consultation with owners. The main purpose of the program is to mitigate the increased water  pollution source and to create riparian buffer for water quality improvement and protection of ecosystem. Purchased land is to be used in improving water quality by creating habitats, wetlands, shore with vegetation and forest. Land Purchase System has been carried out in Han River watershed since 2000, and in other three major river watersheds since 2003. As of late 2011, KRW 1.20 trillion was invested to purchase 45,724,000 ㎡ of land.

Water Use Charge & Watershed Management Fund

According to the ‘user-pays-principle’, the Water Use Charge is applied to the end users of raw or purified water delivered from public waters. The charge is proportional to the amount of water use. The charging rate (KRW per ton) is determined and adjusted every two years by Watershed Management System, the representative decision-making body for the four rivers basin management. Watershed Management Fund is grounded on Water Usage Charge. Han River Watershed Management Fund was created in August 1999 followed by the fund for the other three river watersheds in 2002. Since 2003, water quality improvement project and residential community support project have been carried out. The fund is used for supporting water quality improvement projects by local governments in the upstream of the drinking water sources, supporting the residential communities in the designated areas, and purchasing land adjacent to riparian areas, in order to improve water quality and protect drinking water sources.

Drinking Water Source Management Area Support System

Drinking Water Source Management Area Support can be divided into residential community support and local government support. Residential Community Support System was introduced to minimize the disadvantages of regulation and encourage active cooperation and participation for drinking water sources management by improving the living conditions and income levels of local communities who suffer from an assortment of regulations on the designated areas. The Watershed Management Fund partially supports to construct or operate the environmental infrastructures including WWTPs and advanced wastewater treatment processes, and sewage pipelines of the local governments in the drinking water source areas. This arrangement alleviates the financial burden of local governments and promotes the construction and operation of the environmental infrastructures, which result in the positive impact on water quality management in drinking water source areas.

Civilian Water Quality Monitoring Support System

Watershed Management Fund supports civilian water quality monitoring activities in order to encourage voluntary participation of the private sector and the implementation of basin management based on partnership. Candidates for the support program are local NGOs which dedicates to activities for environment conservation. Support priorities are the trusted and well-recognized organizations, those with impressive performance and experience in environment conservation activities, and the organizations which contributes to nation and community in solving environmental problems.

Lake Water Quality Management Measures

Lake Water Quality Survey

Currently, the country has 17,760 lakes, most of which are artificial lakes created by the construction of dams and serve as agricultural reservoirs. Because they are structured as closed or semi-closed water space, most lakes have low self-purification capacity compared to rivers and the high potential of nutrient accumulation. So, they are very susceptible to eutrophication and other secondary pollutions. To establish and implement appropriate water quality and ecosystem conservation measures, water quality is monitored regularly (every year or every three years) at the lakes with a daily water intake of greater than 300,000 tons and a full water level area of over 0.5 ㎢. The survey results are used as basic data for water quality management. At present, target water quality standards and deadlines on COD, TP, and TN (Total Nitrogen) are set at 49 major lakes.

Prevention of Algal Blooms

To control algal blooms, continuous efforts to prevent nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from entering the water body are being made. The effluent water quality standards of the environmental infrastructures continue to be strengthened, while the advanced wastewater treatment for nutrient reduction are expanded in phases. From 2009, as part of Water Quality Improvement Measures on the Four Major Rivers, TP treatment facilities were installed at all the WWTPs in the four major river basins. After 2012, the effluent standard of TP was strengthened to one-tenth as compared to the previous requirement. Local authority officials and civilian environmental groups at each river basin are making efforts to monitor and restore the river environment.

Intensive Management of Selected Reservoirs

Water Quality and Ecosystem Conservation Act was amended in 2012 to designate the reservoirs required intensive management, and the government will devise and implement measures from 2013. Reservoirs with a capacity of over 10 million ㎥ or agricultural ones with Grade Ⅳ ('Slightly Poor') water quality, or other reservoirs worse than Grade III ('Average') will be classified as the targets of the intensive management.

Algae Alert System

To early alarm the massive algal blooms and prepare appropriate preventive countermeasures, Algae Alert System was established in 1998 at four important lakes - Paldang Lake, Daecheong Lake, Chungju Lake, and Juam Lake - which are used as major drinking water sources. The Algae Alert System continues to be extended to other lakes which is highly susceptible to algal blooms. As of late 2011, the system is established and operated at 22 lakes.

Water Quality Forecasting System

In order to prevent water quality deterioration, water quality forecast has been in service at 16 weirs of the four major rivers since 2012. The system provides chlorophyll-a concentration and water temperature for next 7 days. The short-term (a week later) and long-term (3 months later) forecasts are provided to water management agencies, and the agencies prepare for water use and water quality deterioration. The system can instantly respond to the variable climatic conditions and it can be viewed as an example that conserve water quality and aquatic ecosystem against climate change with the scientific water quality forecasting methodology.

Estuary and Lagoon Management Measures

In additional to the estuaries of the five major rivers, there are a total of 329 estuaries in thirteen national rivers and 316 local rivers. And there are 18 lagoons including Gyeongpo Lake in Gangneung on the east coast alone. For the management of estuaries and lagoons, their scopes were delineated and the survey and assessment for ecological integrity has been continuously carried out on 329 estuaries in local rivers since 2006. Moreover, Seomjin River Estuary Program (2007-2008) was launched, which is the country's first demonstration project of the estuary management. During the program, ecological health status was monitored at major estuaries, and comprehensive measures were prepared and implemented for damaged ones. To solve the marine debris problems during floods, cost-sharing agreement was concluded between local government of upstream and estuaries. Then the national government partially supports the cost of managing marine debris including collection, storage, disposal etc.

Four Major Rivers Restoration Project

Among total 66 mid-watershed regions at four major rivers, 34 watersheds were selected due to increasing trends in pollution or adjacent large drinking water sources. From 2009, intensive investment was made at the selected watersheds to improve water quality and construct the environmental infrastructures including WWTPs, TP treatment facilities, animal manure treatment facilities etc. It is noteworthy that WWTPs are equipped with TP treatment facilities and the effluent standards of TP are strengthened by maximum 20-fold from 2012.

In Korea, the seasonal variability of rainfall is relatively high and there is low precipitation and river flow during every dry season. And water quality deterioration repeatedly occurs as river flow decreases at the season. To alleviate the problems, uncommitted river flows has been secured through the expansion of 96 agricultural reservoirs and the construction of 3 new dams. Since 2012, Water Quality Forecast System has been in operation. If the system expects the water quality deterioration during dry season, water management agencies can jointly discuss the preventive measures such as securing river flows and reducing the pollution loads.

The contribution of NPS pollution keeps on increasing with urban developments and agricultural activities. To control the NPS pollution, the Best Management Practices (BMPs) has been installed nation-wide since 2008. Through the Four Major Rivers Restoration Project, 23 ecological wetlands and riparian buffers have been constructed to control NPS from alpine field runoff, urban storm water etc. In 2012, the 2nd Comprehensive NPS Control Measure was prepared and launched, which is focused on the four major river basins. Animal manure from small cattle sheds served as important NPS. As countermeasures, Animal Manure Management Initiative was prepared. It enables to amend the related laws and to expand the manure treatment facilities. Furthermore, the farm lands at floodplain were recovered and compensated for abandonment of farming. While fertilizers and pesticides could directly enter the water body from the floodplain farmland in the past, enhanced protection of water quality and ecosystem is expected after the floodplain recovery.

Source-Specific Management Measures

As of late 2010, there are 48,266 units of wastewater discharging facilities in Korea, which generate daily 5,229 tons of industrial wastewater. The number of hogs and cattle are approximately 9.88 million and 3.35 million, respectively, and they generate daily 118,000 tons of animal manure.

Industrial Wastewater Management Measure

The toxic chemicals in the industrial effluent and public water are being regularly monitored. The frequently detected compounds with high toxicity are designated as Water Pollutant or Priority Pollutant List and effluent standards are developed. It results in the suppression of the industrial use of the toxic chemicals and the inflow into public water of the pollutants. Recently, acrylamide, a potential carcinogen, is included in the Priority Pollutant List, and the compounds regulated by the effluent standards were expanded from 35 to 42 chemicals, including 1,4-dioxane and vinyl chloride.

Ecotoxicity Management System was established for the integrated management of the chemical toxicity in the industrial effluents. To develop the system, the research projects including "The source detection and mitigation of ecotoxicity on different industrial classification and facilities (from 2007)" were carried out. The ecotoxicity standard of industrial effluent was proposed and technical assistants were provided for the facilities which exceed the ecotoxicity standard. Public hearing and forums were held at each region to make the system foundation secure. If the ecotoxicity standard is exceeded by salts, the industrial facilities which discharge their effluent into port and coastal waters and those established prior to the enforcement of the system were exempted (enforcement regulation in April 2010). And the procedure and method for proving the ecotoxicity by salts were announced (July 2010).

Animal Manure Management Measures

Animal manure takes up 1% of total wastewater and accounts for 37% of water pollution. Compared with its significant contribution, its management has been unsatisfactory so far. Currently, animal manure is managed in accordance with <Act on the Management and Use of Livestock Excreta> and public animal manure treatment facilities have been constructed to treat the waste from stock farmers. They are classified into three different groups by size of livestock operation – authorization-required, registration-required, and registration-free. Installation of animal manure treatment facility is obligatory to the authorization- or registration-required stock farmers and effluent standard is also applied.

To facilitate the communication between public agencies and livestock industries, various types of workshops and public hearings on animal waste management are prepared. Also, every year a joint inspection is conducted to reinforce the animal manure management, while grievances are figured out and suggestions are collected from local farmers in each quarter. With the voluntary agreement between local governments and Korea Pork Producers Association, autonomous inspection system is established and the results are regularly disclosed through local bulletins like neighborhood meeting newsletter.

Starting in 1991, to alleviate the stock farmer's burden of disposing of animal manure as well as to improve water quality, national budget has been provided to construct and operate public animal manure treatment facilities at each local governments (as of late 2012, 89 facilities (10,400㎥/day) in operation and 23 facilities (2,500㎥/day) installed or being expanded). New approach which regards the animal manure as resources, not wastes, is adopted. A public treatment facilities capable of generating biogas and liquefied fertilizer as well as purification were constructed as a demonstration project (in 2010, 4 demonstration projects for utilizing the intermediate processed water as liquefied fertilizer, and between 2011 and 2012, 7 demonstration projects for constructing local-integrated animal manure management centers)

Nonpoint Source (NPS) Management Measures

As of 2003, the BOD load from NPS at the four major rivers watersheds takes up around 52.6% of total BOD pollution loads. As the increased development activities and expansion of urban areas, the contribution of NPS is expected to reach around 72% of total BOD loads in 2020.

In response, the ‘NPS Comprehensive Management Measures at the Four Major Rivers’ were established in March 2004). It deals with institutional reforms, R&D activities, demonstration projects of NPS treatment facilities and public relations. Through the measures, the diversified and systematic management of NPS was legitimately implemented at the state level.

Also 「Water Quality and Ecosystem Conservation Act」 was amended in March 2005. It gives the national and local governments an authority to manage NPS on imposes duty on large-sized development projects and wastewater discharging facilities to install NPS control facilities. Regulations on NPS management and environmentally friendly land use at the early stage of development projects were continuously incorporated in the 27 laws and guidelines including Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), City Master Plan etc.

Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project

The government established ‘10-Year Plan for Restoring Ecological Streams’ and has moved ahead with survey of ecosystem impairment, restoration of aquatic ecosystems, and R&D activities on ecosystem restoration.

Recently, the following projects are implemented in a systematic way including restoring the dried and covered-up urban streams, conserving flagship species at a stream, creating ecological corridors, matching a stream with an interested company, restoring ditches and rills at the upstream, etc. In September 2010, ‘Mid- & Long-Term Plan for Implementing Ecological Streams Restoration Project’ was established, which aimed to increase the proportion of the ecological streams from 45% to 51% by restoring around 11% (1,667 ㎞) of the ecologically impaired streams (14,722 ㎞). 

Last modified : 2013-10-23 17:38

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