context: Water conservancy projects are a core focus area for public–private partnerships, but broader issues plague the mechanism, not least the lack of an overarching law. These operating guidelines serve as a stop-gap, clarifying expectations so that private investment into water infrastructure can continue while broader reforms are made.

‘Operating guidelines for public–private partnership (PPP) water conservancy projects (trial)’ was announced by National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and Ministry of Water Resources (MWR). The document provides details for local governments on standard processes for selecting and announcing PPP projects, maintaining a database of available projects, evaluating private companies seeking to partner, managing competitive bidding and negotiation processes, and conducting oversight during project implementation. The document

  • mandates local governments assume responsibility for coordinating and supporting PPP projects
  • requires selecting water conservancy projects for PPP that
    • show stable and long-term demand
    • are suitable for marketised operation
  • provides guidelines for all aspects of water conservancy PPP project management including
    • maintaining a database of projects
    • conducting feasibility evaluations
    • selecting private capital partners
    • implementation