“Water Town” of Dongying: Building A Vibrant Modern Wetland City

  • 13 January 2021  |  Stories

Why Do We Need Wetland

Wetlands are unique ecosystems formed by the interactions of land and water on the earth and a significant part of the earth's natural ecosystems. However, with the increasing influence of human activities, many wetland resources have been lost, degraded or fragmented, seriously affecting the ecological, economic and social development of the region where wetlands are located. The protection of wetlands, especially the reasonable utilization of wetland ecosystems while maintaining their natural characteristics, has become a worldwide problem.

Why Did Dongying Build A “Water Town”

Dongying City is located in the Yellow River estuary in China. Thanks to the unique geographical and climatic conditions, it has abundant wetland resources with typical originality, rarity and international significance. 

However, the city was once facing challenges in terms of water resources and wetland management. Initially, the rivers, lakes and other waters in the city were dispersed, disconnected and lack of management, causing pollution and waterlogging problems from time to time. Instead of benefiting from the wetland resources, residents were suffering from wetland degradation due to water shortage in their own city.

In order to tackle the problems related to wetlands and water resources and turn the disadvantages into advantages, the local government of the Dongying City initiated a series of projects to build a “water town” within the city by connecting the fragmented waters. 

 “Wetland is an important resource of Dongying City. It is also the foundation of our city establishment and development.” said Yanyan Sun, Senior Engineer of Dongying Municipal Natural Resources and Planning Bureau. 

Dongying City has always attached importance to protecting and restoring wetlands as the ecological foundation of urban development. The development of the water town is one of the main measures of wetland management of the Dongying City. 

Impacts of the “Water Town”: Better Water Quality, Fewer Waterloggings and Improved Residential Environment

Since 2015, through the comprehensive treatment projects (including land consolidation, green space construction, increasing flood storage and detention facilities, and so on) of watercourses such as Guangli River, a total of eight water systems and five lakes have been connected to build up round-the-city water systems, forming a fantastic “Water Town” scenery with great attraction in the downtown area of Dongying City. 

Lots of efforts were made by local agencies to prevent the water quality from decreasing during the rainy season caused by the precipitation and the domestic sewage discharged into the water systems. For example, the Yellow River water is introduced regularly for refreshing water in the systems according to the water quality. There are also operations for small uninterrupted inflow into the water systems and strengthened water quality monitoring.

So far, the water quality of the circulating water systems on the whole reached China’s national standards of Class V surface water bodies. The environment around the water town has been improved and the waterlogging problem largely decreased.

 “Life changed a lot since the water town was built. ” said Xinyue Zhang, a resident lives nearby.

Landscape of the “water town” of Dongying

Other Wetland Conservation Efforts and Partnership with UNEP

In addition to the development of the water town, the Dongying City has made other great efforts to strengthen the protection of wetlands, restore degraded wetlands, and improve wetland ecosystem services. Because of the establishment of nature reserves, wetland parks, water source conservation areas, special marine reserves, and small protected areas of wetlands, the area of wetlands under protection in this city has reached 257,531 ha, about a quarter of land area in this city. In October 2018, Dongying City was accredited as one of the first batch of “International Wetland Cities” in the world.

Over the past few years, the United Nations Environment Programme- International Ecosystem Management Partnership (hereinafter UNEP-IEMP) and Dongying Municipal Foreign Affairs Office have developed extensive cooperation in the fields of urban green development and ecosystem management. The most recent example is that in 2019, the two parties have jointly carried out the research about valuation and protection countermeasures of wetland ecosystem services in Dongying City, so as to support the actions to promote itself as a wetland city.

In view of consensuses and facts in the past, Dongying Municipal People’s Government and UNEP signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in July 2020 to facilitate collaboration in regard to ecological conservation and green and high-quality development in the Yellow River Delta.

Implications and Contributions to SDGs and Beyond

 “The Water Town in Dongying City serves as a good practice for wetland management in urban area for cities all over the world.” said Linxiu Zhang, Director UNEP-IEMP.

 “The work is also implementing United Nation Sustainable Development Goal 6 ‘Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all’. Dongying protects and restores wetlands through concerted action at the city level, and build homes.”

For more information, please contact: Fu Chao,