Water management policies were previously based on administrative districts and focused on restricting the pollution-causing behaviors in upstream regions through the regulations on the wastewater-discharging facilities and the designation of water source protection areas. After recognizing the limitations of such regulatory approach, the river basin management has been incorporated to the water policies since 2000s. It tries to address the conflicts between upstream and downstream reaches or the disagreement between urban and agricultural regions beyond the administrative districts.

Accordingly, the pan-governmental “Comprehensive Plan on Water Management in the Four Major Rivers” was formulated and the Water Management Act was enacted for each of the four major rivers. The key measures for the river basin management include TPLMS, riparian zone designation, land purchase, establishment of a river management fund from water use charges, and operation of the River Management Committee.

Water Use Charges and River Management Funds

Water use charges and river management funds are used as effective financial measures for river basin management, mediating interests between upstream and downstream reaches and providing financial resources to foster water quality of water supply source areas. Water use charges are collected from downstream users who are supplied with the tap water produced from upstream water. The charges are placed into river management funds to carry out water quality improvement projects at water supply source areas as well as to support the upstream residents who are negatively affected by the regulations on water supply source areas.

Water use charges are imposed on water users according to the “user pays principle.” In other words, the charges are imposed on end users who are supplied with source water or purified water collected from the public waters of the four major rivers. Charges are proportionate to the amount of water used and included in the water bill. Water use charge is regarded as a non-tax use charge because it is established for the specific administrative task, carrying out water quality improvement projects at water supply sources areas, and imposed - only for the beneficiary groups that use the water.

The rates of water use charges are adjusted by the River Management Committee every two years. In the early stages of implementation, the rates were 80 to 110 KRW per ton depending on the river. Then it was gradually increased to 160 to 170 KRW per ton in 2013. In 2012, a total of 833 billion KRW was collected in water use charges from the four major river watershed, including 447 billion KRW from the Han River.

The river management funds are based on the collected water use charges. First, the Han River Management Fund was established in August 1999, followed by the Three Major Rivers Management Fund in July 2002. Since 2003, the fund has supported the project for water quality improvement and residents support. The uses of fund are as follows: (1) The water quality improvement and water source protection projects carried out by upstream local government including construction and operation of environmental infrastructures (2) Resident support projects in water source management areas that are subject to regulations; and (3) Purchase of land in riparian zones that have significant impact on the water quality of water supply sources. Resident support projects include income increase, welfare improvement, education, scholarship assistance, and housing improvement.

River Management Committee

The River Management Committee is a major decision-making body for the river basin management of the four major river. It deliberates on and coordinates important matters such as the operation of the river management fund, the imposition of water use charges, the pollutant discharge elimination plan and land purchase for the water quality improvement, the plan for resident support project, and the assistance for civilian water quality monitoring activities.

The Committee is chaired by the Vice Minister of Environment and its members consist of the deputy mayors or deputy governors of the wide-area local governments (si or do) concerned, the CEO of K-water and heads of other associated institutions, and high-level public officials of associated government ministries. In other words, the wide-area local governments participate in the River Management Committee as the representatives of local residents, who are important stakeholders in the river basins, and reflect the residents’ opinion in decision making.


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Last modified : 2017-12-12 08:38

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