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Journal of Integrative Agriculture  2021, Vol. 20 Issue (5): 1382-1395    DOI: 10.1016/S2095-3119(20)63370-6
Special Issue: 农业经济与管理合辑Agricultural Economics and Management
Agricultural Economics and Management Advanced Online Publication | Current Issue | Archive | Adv Search |
The river chief system and agricultural non-point source water pollution control in China
ZHOU Li1, LI Ling-zhi1, HUANG Ji-kun2, 3 
1 College of Economics and Management, Nanjing Agricultural University, Nanjing 210095, P.R.China
2 China Center for Agricultural Policy, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, P.R.China
3 Jiangxi Agricultural University, Nanchang 330045, P.R.China
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As part of their efforts to control water pollution, local governments in China introduced the river chief system, whereby a named individual undertakes responsibility for protecting a specified waterway.  As one of the most prominent sources of water pollution, agricultural non-point-source (NPS) pollution is becoming increasingly serious.  Determining whether the river chief system, an institutional reform in China’s decentralized environmental regulation regime, is effective in alleviating NPS pollution is important for the realization of green development.  The effect of the river chief system on reducing agricultural NPS pollution is explored in this study using panel data from 308 Chinese counties during the period from 2004 to 2015.  The results reveal that the negative impact of manure output from animal breeding operations on surface water quality is reduced with the implementation of the river chief system.  However, the river chief system is ineffective in dealing with the water pollution caused by fertilizer use.  Furthermore, in the current system, cooperation among river chiefs only occurs within a province.  Local governments should increase their efforts in reducing fertilizer source loads and preventing fertilizer loads from entering surface waters.  In addition, the central government should improve cooperation among the river chiefs in upstream and downstream provinces.
Keywords:  river chief system        agricultural non-point-source pollution        surface water quality        fertilizer use        livestock and poultry breeding  
Received: 14 October 2019   Accepted:
Fund: We acknowledge the financial support from the National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (71742002 and 71934003), the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions, China (PAPD), and the China Center for Food Security Studies in Nanjing Agricultural University, China.
Corresponding Authors:  Correspondence HUANG Ji-kun, Tel: +86-10-62765603, Fax: +86-10-62767145, E-mail:    
About author:  ZHOU Li, E-mail:;

Cite this article: 

ZHOU Li, LI Ling-zhi, HUANG Ji-kun. 2021. The river chief system and agricultural non-point source water pollution control in China. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 20(5): 1382-1395.

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