Water and sustainable development in Korea : a country case study

Title
Water and sustainable development in Korea : a country case study
Authors
안종호
Co-Author
강형식; 김연주; 김호정; 한혜진; 양일주; 한대호; 김윤승; 정석환
Issue Date
2015-02-28
Publisher
한국환경정책·평가연구원
Series/Report No.
정책보고서 : 2015-01
Page
61 p.
URI
http://repository.kei.re.kr/handle/2017.oak/20268
Language
영어
Keywords
물거버넌스, 물관리, 상하수도, 수질, 지속가능발전, Sustainable Development, Water Management, WASH, Water Governance
Abstract
Korea is located in Northeast Asia along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, where the climate is relatively warm and humid with four distinct seasons. The annual rate of precipitation is high at 1,277mm, but varies regionally, making the water resource availability also variable across the country. The seasonal variations of precipitation, on the other hand, cause a frequent flooding and drought cycle, which is one of the main challenges of water resource management in Korea. Also climate change has been emerging as a major compounding factor for this issue, thus prompting a set of response measures to be adopted immediately. The development of water resources, which is closely linked with economic development, has always been considered as a major national agenda throughout the nation’s history. Despite the vulnerable characteristic of the main source of water supply being surface water, public water supply nearly six-folded over the last four decades (from 1965 to 2007), from 5.1 billion m3 to 25.5 billion m3 . The percentage of households with access to water service has gone up from a mere 20% in the early 1960s to 98.1% in 2012. At the same time, the sewerage connection rates have also grown rapidly, from almost none to over 90%. The key to success for this dramatic progress was the strenuous efforts made by the government to develop and manage water resources, including the timely preparation and aggressive implementation of environmental policies during the late 1980s, when the environmental pollution caused by industrialization and urbanization started to surface and be perceived by the public. The proactive efforts to educate expert engineers and scientists in the field of water resource management should be counted as another key success factor. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) is in charge of the development of water resources such as rivers and dams in the country as a whole, while the Ministry of Environment (MOE) is in charge of investment and operations of the infrastructure that preserves water quality. The set of major laws and regulations that support the water management and utilization framework in Korea includes “River Act”, ”Groundwater Act” and ”Act on Dam Construction and Assistance, etc. to Neighborhood Areas”. The MOLIT is responsible for administering these laws for national water supply and flood management. On the other hand, ” Water Quality and Ecosystem Conservation Act”, ”Water Supply and Waterworks Installation Act”, ”Drinking Water Management Act”, ”Promotion of and Support for Water Reuse Act” and ”Act on Water Management and Resident Support in the Four River Basins” are governed by the MOE. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MOAFRA) oversees ”Rearrangement of Agricultural and Fishing Villages Act”. The mid- and long-term national water resources agendas are pursued by these central government bodies, while local governments are responsible for regional-level planning and implementation. Every ten years, the MOLIT establishes national long-term water resource plans and the MOE establishes a national waterworks plan. Various administrative guidelines exist for the planning, financing and completion of water projects, as well as for transparent financial operation with proper monitoring. Government’s financial aids for water projects are generally provided based on the implementation plans drafted by the local governments and followed by annual assessments that determine the levels of support for the following year. One of the major challenges in recent years in Korea is the institutional fragmentation and over-decentralization of the utility sector. Currently, the water and aquatic eco-system qualities are regulated by the MOE, while the water quantity management by the MOLIT. This segregation has turned out to be one of the barriers to an integrated water management system, which is strongly demanded due to climate change issues. Therefore, water resource related laws are required to be consolidated for systematic management of water quantity and quality, water rights and aquatic eco-system. The need for a consolidated legislation has been gaining support from the experts and the water industry for many years, but the central government’s stance on this issue is still unclear. On the other hand, recently, there has been a strong push by the government toward the consolidation of the water and wastewater utility sector to improve management and economic efficiency. The average operation rate of water and wastewater treatment facilities was 80% in 1991, and later declined to 50% in 2006. The main cause of the problem was the continuing over predictions of capacity and the failure of economies of scale made at the time of investment planning stages. The government is making efforts to establish a set of investment planning guidance and also to revamp overall operations system, to better fit the actual demand by consolidating the facilities. Another important issue is how to secure sustainable financial policies. The revenue from the public water and wastewater services is not sufficient to cover the expenses, and government subsidies have been the main source for balancing expenses, improving, and expanding the nation’s water and wastewater treatment facilities. The amount of the government subsidies is determined by considering the total amount of investment and the location of the facility as the government is working to reduce the gap between urban and rural wastewater services. However, the current subsidies-heavy financing structure has been one of the major concerns for a while. In some case, the national average water tariff (610.2 KRW/m3 in 2010) covers only 78.5% of the production cost (777.2 KRW/m3), and the remainder is being compensated by the government subsidies. Over the past several years, the government subsidies for water and wastewater services have been maintained at a level of around 10%. The government plans to phase the subsidies out gradually, considering the balance between current macroeconomic status and public spending. For wastewater service, the ratio of expenses recovered by the revenue had gradually increased to 62.5% by 2004, dropping again to 40% in 2009 (national average sewage tariff is 240 KRW/m3, 38.3% of the total production cost of 715.6 KRW/m3). The government has been strongly promoting privatization of sewage services, in order to more realistically reflect the actual cost of wastewater treatment, to maximize the return on investment, and ultimately to reduce the government subsidies. The privatization plan is expected not only to improve the operation efficiency and quality of services and to reduce the financial burden of the local government, but also to improve the environmental quality. So far, private companies had been constructed and been operating over 100 sewage treatment facilities between 1998 and 2008, and as of 2009, about 70% of the nation’s wastewater treatment facilities were being operated by private companies5. This trend is expected to continue, especially as longer-term operations contracts will be permitted in a foreseeable future. An array of water environment changes such as climate change and growing expectations with respect to public welfare, including water and wastewater services, has created new issues in terms of the sustainable water use. Therefore, a set of new and expanded policies for water resource management and water services is needed to tackle the climate change issues such as urban flash flooding and higher drought risks, and to suit the higher standards of living that demand better access to high quality water for leisure, tourism and exercise. As a prerequisite, the new dimensions of functions and values of water should be recognized, appreciated and framed accordingly among policy makers and decision makers


Korea is located in Northeast Asia along the rim of the Pacific Ocean, where the climate is relatively warm and humid with four distinct seasons. The annual rate of precipitation is high at 1,277mm, but varies regionally, making the water resource availability also variable across the country. The seasonal variations of precipitation, on the other hand, cause a frequent flooding and drought cycle, which is one of the main challenges of water resource management in Korea. Also climate change has been emerging as a major compounding factor for this issue, thus prompting a set of response measures to be adopted immediately. The development of water resources, which is closely linked with economic development, has always been considered as a major national agenda throughout the nation’s history. Despite the vulnerable characteristic of the main source of water supply being surface water, public water supply nearly six-folded over the last four decades (from 1965 to 2007), from 5.1 billion m3 to 25.5 billion m3 . The percentage of households with access to water service has gone up from a mere 20% in the early 1960s to 98.1% in 2012. At the same time, the sewerage connection rates have also grown rapidly, from almost none to over 90%. The key to success for this dramatic progress was the strenuous efforts made by the government to develop and manage water resources, including the timely preparation and aggressive implementation of environmental policies during the late 1980s, when the environmental pollution caused by industrialization and urbanization started to surface and be perceived by the public. The proactive efforts to educate expert engineers and scientists in the field of water resource management should be counted as another key success factor. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) is in charge of the development of water resources such as rivers and dams in the country as a whole, while the Ministry of Environment (MOE) is in charge of investment and operations of the infrastructure that preserves water quality. The set of major laws and regulations that support the water management and utilization framework in Korea includes “River Act”, ”Groundwater Act” and ”Act on Dam Construction and Assistance, etc. to Neighborhood Areas”. The MOLIT is responsible for administering these laws for national water supply and flood management. On the other hand, ” Water Quality and Ecosystem Conservation Act”, ”Water Supply and Waterworks Installation Act”, ”Drinking Water Management Act”, ”Promotion of and Support for Water Reuse Act” and ”Act on Water Management and Resident Support in the Four River Basins” are governed by the MOE. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MOAFRA) oversees ”Rearrangement of Agricultural and Fishing Villages Act”. The mid- and long-term national water resources agendas are pursued by these central government bodies, while local governments are responsible for regional-level planning and implementation. Every ten years, the MOLIT establishes national long-term water resource plans and the MOE establishes a national waterworks plan. Various administrative guidelines exist for the planning, financing and completion of water projects, as well as for transparent financial operation with proper monitoring. Government’s financial aids for water projects are generally provided based on the implementation plans drafted by the local governments and followed by annual assessments that determine the levels of support for the following year. One of the major challenges in recent years in Korea is the institutional fragmentation and over-decentralization of the utility sector. Currently, the water and aquatic eco-system qualities are regulated by the MOE, while the water quantity management by the MOLIT. This segregation has turned out to be one of the barriers to an integrated water management system, which is strongly demanded due to climate change issues. Therefore, water resource related laws are required to be consolidated for systematic management of water quantity and quality, water rights and aquatic eco-system. The need for a consolidated legislation has been gaining support from the experts and the water industry for many years, but the central government’s stance on this issue is still unclear. On the other hand, recently, there has been a strong push by the government toward the consolidation of the water and wastewater utility sector to improve management and economic efficiency. The average operation rate of water and wastewater treatment facilities was 80% in 1991, and later declined to 50% in 2006. The main cause of the problem was the continuing over predictions of capacity and the failure of economies of scale made at the time of investment planning stages. The government is making efforts to establish a set of investment planning guidance and also to revamp overall operations system, to better fit the actual demand by consolidating the facilities. Another important issue is how to secure sustainable financial policies. The revenue from the public water and wastewater services is not sufficient to cover the expenses, and government subsidies have been the main source for balancing expenses, improving, and expanding the nation’s water and wastewater treatment facilities. The amount of the government subsidies is determined by considering the total amount of investment and the location of the facility as the government is working to reduce the gap between urban and rural wastewater services. However, the current subsidies-heavy financing structure has been one of the major concerns for a while. In some case, the national average water tariff (610.2 KRW/m3 in 2010) covers only 78.5% of the production cost (777.2 KRW/m3), and the remainder is being compensated by the government subsidies. Over the past several years, the government subsidies for water and wastewater services have been maintained at a level of around 10%. The government plans to phase the subsidies out gradually, considering the balance between current macroeconomic status and public spending. For wastewater service, the ratio of expenses recovered by the revenue had gradually increased to 62.5% by 2004, dropping again to 40% in 2009 (national average sewage tariff is 240 KRW/m3, 38.3% of the total production cost of 715.6 KRW/m3). The government has been strongly promoting privatization of sewage services, in order to more realistically reflect the actual cost of wastewater treatment, to maximize the return on investment, and ultimately to reduce the government subsidies. The privatization plan is expected not only to improve the operation efficiency and quality of services and to reduce the financial burden of the local government, but also to improve the environmental quality. So far, private companies had been constructed and been operating over 100 sewage treatment facilities between 1998 and 2008, and as of 2009, about 70% of the nation’s wastewater treatment facilities were being operated by private companies5. This trend is expected to continue, especially as longer-term operations contracts will be permitted in a foreseeable future. An array of water environment changes such as climate change and growing expectations with respect to public welfare, including water and wastewater services, has created new issues in terms of the sustainable water use. Therefore, a set of new and expanded policies for water resource management and water services is needed to tackle the climate change issues such as urban flash flooding and higher drought risks, and to suit the higher standards of living that demand better access to high quality water for leisure, tourism and exercise. As a prerequisite, the new dimensions of functions and values of water should be recognized, appreciated and framed accordingly among policy makers and decision makers.

Table Of Contents

I. Background

II. Status
1. Water Resources
2. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Access
3. Water Management and Sustainable Use/Reuse
3.1. Industry & Agriculture
3.2. Energy
3.3. Ecosystem Service
4. Water Quality

III. Implementation
1. Water Resources
2. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Access
3. Water Management and Sustainable Use/Reuse
4. Water Quality
5. Water Governance
5.1. Water Policy
5.2. Water Law
5.3. River Basin Management
5.4. Codes, Standards and Performance Measures
5.5. Monitoring
5.6. Public Reporting
5.7. Stakeholder Participation

IV. Implication-Finance and Policy

V. Discussion and Future Growth

VI. Conclusion

Reference

Appendix

국문요약

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