Japanese Government’s Water Environment Policies and Environmental Audit of the Board of Audit of Japan


Japanese Government’s Water Environment Policies


(1) The Japanese Government’s Environment Policies



The Japanese Government’s environment administrative activities are shared by several Ministries and Agencies such as Ministry of the Environment (MOE), Ministry of Land Infrastructure and Transport (MLIT) and others.  The Government’s FY 2004 environment budget amounted to \2,557.2 billion.

The MOE, the key player in environment administrative activities, establishes Government-wide policies in the fields such as industrial/daily life waste disposal (including waste disposal facility construction), preservation/protection of natural environment, water quality control, contamination survey etc., and executes such policies.

     In particular areas of environment policies, such as pollution prevention facility construction and waste recycling, the MOE establishes Government-wide policies, plans, standards, and leaves project planning/implementation to Ministries/Agencies in charge of specific programs.


    Past Development of Environment Administrative Activities in Japan

    The Japanese Government’s environment policies had comprised prevention of industrial pollutions which reached their peak amid Japan’s rapid economic growth from around 1955 to around 1970, and protection/preservation of natural environment. The Government so far has accomplished considerable success in the two fields mentioned above, but the Government is now facing new challenges because today’s environment problems are rapidly changing their fundamental natures:

Globalization of the problemsToday’s environment problems are increasingly having global  implications  and significance. These   implications and significance are typically exemplified by global warming, ozone layer depletion, acid rain and other problems.

Problems arising from mass production, mass consumption and mass dumping: In Japan, mass production, mass consumption and mass dumping are creating various environmental problems such as various pollutions, rapid increase of wastes whose amount is constantly keeping high level, shortage of disposal capacity/sites etc.

Facing these problems, the Japanese Government in November 1993 enacted Basic Environment Law (BEL), which outlined the basis of the Japanese Government’s environment policies, the future direction, and framework of such policies. The BEL expanded Japan’s environment policies from pollution prevention at home to policies also coping with global environment protection. The Japanese Government in 2000 enacted Product Exhaustive Use Basic Law (PEUBL), which intended to reduce the nation’s total  amount of waste by exhaustively using industrial products by re-use, recycling etc. The PEUBL’s ultimate goal was to build environmentally and economically “sustainable society”.


The Basic Environment Plan (BEP)  

Based on the BEL, the Japanese Government in December 1994 established the Basic Environment Plan-1 (BEP-I), which showed the Japanese Government’s long-term environment policies. The BEP-I made significant progress compared with the previous environment policies by establishing framework of the Japanese Government’s environment policies in individual fields such as global warming, waste disposal, product recycling, toxic product handling, biological diversity and so on.  

 Having re-directed its previous environment policies to those for building “sustainable society” by enacting the PEUBL, the Japanese Government in December 2000 took a further step and established the Basic Environment Plan –II (BEP-II).


    Japanese Government’s Water Protection Policies on the BEP

 As one of the major goals of the sustainable development, the BEP-II planned to promote better “water environment”, “soil environment” and “ground environment (i.e. prevention of soil base sagging)”. And particularly to improve “water environment”, the Japanese Government is to preserve “sound hydrologic cycle” by maintaining good quality and sufficient quantity of water. The Government is also to protect aquatic animals/plants, and thus to maintain environmentally adequate waterfront ecology. The BEP-II is to implement such water environment betterment policies by keeping the best harmony with the soil/ground betterment policies mentioned above. The next chapter explains Japanese Government’s water environment betterment policies specifically focusing on water environment conservation policies.


 The Japanese Government’s Water Environment Conservation  Policies


 Environmental Quality Standards for Water Pollutants (EQSW)

To protect public waters such as seas, rivers, lakes/swamps, the MOE stipulates the Environmental Quality Standards for Water Pollutants (EQSW) based on the BEL. The EQSW sets water quality standards as the benchmarks desired to be achieved. The EQSW comprises1 standards to protect human health (HPS: Health Protection Standards) and (2) standards to protect people’s living environment (LEPS: Living Environment Protection Standards).

The HPS sets standards for the quality of public waters and groundwater. The HPS specifically sets upper limits of 26 pollutants such as cadmium and all species of cyanides. The LEPS sets benchmark values for BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand), COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) and DO(Dissolved Oxygen) for individual rivers, lakes/swamps and sea waters. To protect lakes/swamps and sea waters from eutrophication note1, the LEPS sets common maximum limits of  nitrogen and phosphorus amounts respectively for all the swamps/lakes and sea waters in Japan.

  Note 1: Eeutrophication: A phenomenon of inland shallow waters being over-nutrified (contaminated) by various industrial waste liquids such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Eutrophication often causes increase of organic compounds and consequent lack of oxygen in waters.  


Water Quality Monitoring

Japan’s nationwide 47 Prefectural governments constantly monitor quality of public waters at 5,695 locations (as of the end of 2002) based on the BEL. The MLIT(Ministry of Land Infrastructures and Transport) subsidizes Prefectural governments for the cost of monitoring. The Prefectural governments install automatic water quality monitoring systems presently at 120 locations nationwide. The MLIT monitors waters of major rivers by installing automatic water quality monitoring systems at 226 locations along 94 major streams under its control.  


Achievement of the Environmental Quality Standards for Water Pollutants (EQSW)

The 2002 PWQS compliance survey result shows that out of 5,695 surveyed locations there were only 42 locations (0.7%) which were yet to achieve HPS (Health Protection Standards). This shows that, as far as   HPS-related water pollutions such as cadmium and cyanide pollutions are concerned, problems have been mostly solved.        

The LEPS-related water pollution (BOD/COD/DO-related pollutions) however is yet to be achieved because:

(1) Closed waters such as those in swamps, narrow bays and inland seas tend to accumulate stagnant waters which produce pollutants;

(2)  Industries and local inhabitants tend to congest alongside bay /inland sea coastal lines.

  Due to (1) and (2) above, some of such closed waters in Japan continue to be highly polluted.


Alleviation of the Waste Water Impact to Environment  

To achieve EQSW goals, the Government should alleviate the negative environmental impacts in every step of water use/consumption both in industrial activities and people’s daily life activities. To do so, the Government particularly needs to regulate water use/consumption. The following paragraphs explain the measures the Japanese government presently takes to alleviate negative impacts.

a) Industrial Waste Water Discharge Control

The Japanese Government controls industrial waste water discharge by the Industrial Waste Water Discharge Standards (IWWDS) established based on the Water Quality Control Law.  The IWWDS sets upper limits of the industrial waste water discharges of factories by 27 HPS standards and 15 LEPS standards. The IWWDS presently applies to 300,000 locations of factories nationwide as of the end of 2002. Further, the Government sets upper limits of the amount of each of the pollutants in individual closed water areas (bays, inland seas etc.). And because of the measures mentioned above, the HPS standards (cadmium cyanide etc.) have been largely complied with.

      b)  People’s Daily Life Waste Water Discharge Control

 Compared with the considerable advance in the solution of the problems arising from industrial water discharge, the solution of the problems  arising from people’s daily life waste water discharge (discharge of  bathroom water, washing  water, kitchen water etc.) so far has made much less progress.

  Despite past advances in this field, there are a number of districts in Japan which still lack waste water treatment facilities such as sewerage facilities. Consequently, people’s daily life waste water discharge makes up a major source of today’s public water pollution in Japan.  Japan’s daily life water-treatment beneficiary population stands at approx. 98.54 million nationwide as of the end of 2003, which accounts for 77.7 of the total population (approx. 128 million).

But there are big gaps between urban areas and local districts in waste water treatment rates  (waste-water-treatment beneficiary population/total population) ranging from more than 90% in big cities to only 56.4% in average in small cities/towns (population less than 50,000).


Challenges Facing Japan’s water Environment Protection

The Japanese Government so far has budgeted, and will continue to budget big amount of taxpayers’ money for fostering/maintaining sound water environment. The Japanese Government appropriated 1,034.7   billion for water, soil, and ground environment protections in its FY2004  budget, which made up 40.1 of ¥2,577.2 billion total environment budget. Along with regulating industrial waste water discharge, the Japanese Government, among others, should particularly promote treatment of people’s daily life waste water. This includes promotion of building waste water treatment facilities such as sewerage facilities, farming area waste water treatment facilities, and house water septic tanks note2.   

        Note2: Septic tank: Septic tank simultaneously treats both toilet waste water and other house waste waters by using particular species of bacteria. Septic tank is more cost-effective than sewerage facility in some sparsely populated areas.


Examples of Environmental Audit Findings of the Board of Audit of Japan


    The Audit Guidelines and the Viewpoint of Audit

   The Board of Audit of Japan every year establishes Audit Guidelines which show organizational audit guidance, particularly stating the focal audit points of that year.  Each of the Audit Divisions establishes Audit Plan based on the Audit Guidelines. The Audit Guidelines have stated “environment” as one of the major focal points of audit in recent years.

The Board of Audit conducts its audits from the viewpoints of (i) Whether or not the statement of accounts accurately reflects the execution of the budget (Accuracy); (ii)Whether or not the projects and programs are administered in conformity with the budgets, laws and regulations (Regularity), (iii) Whether or not the projects and programs are executed economically and efficiently (Economy and Efficiency) and (iv) Whether or not the projects achieved planned goals and produced the intended effects (Effectiveness).


Example 1: Septic Tank Capacity Selection

A. Audited Project: Septic Tank Installation Project

 B. Outline of the Project

To upgrade living environment and public health, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) subsidizes municipalities (cities, towns and villages) who subsidize each household’s septic tank installation cost.

Septic tanks simultaneously treat both toilet waste water and other house waste waters (bathroom and kitchen waters), and is particularly effective in mountainous sparsely populated areas where collective sewerage waste water treatment is difficult. One septic tank is installed for one house.    

   The Sewage Disposal Law and the House Building Law stipulate that the numbers of sewage disposal beneficiaries per one house should be based on the total floor square measures of the house based on the Japan Industrial Standards (JIS) which stipulates as follows:













B (persons)







A: Per-house total floor square measures

B: Per-house numbers of living family members (numbers of per-house waste water treatment beneficiaries)


The JIS states that the B in the above table (the JIS table) can be adjusted based on the actual numbers of per-house living beneficiaries.

The JIS assumes one person one day waste water discharge at 200 liter.   Manufacturers produce septic tanks based on the JIS which divides the tanks  into 5 types: 5 person type, 6 person type, 7 person type , 8 person type and 10 person type.

Each house receives the septic tank State subsidy through prefectures and municipalities.

C. Scope and Viewpoints of Audit

The Board in 1992 and 1993 picked out nationwide 11,103 septic tanks subsidized through 19 prefectures’ 123 municipalities. The Board specifically examined the numbers of per-house living family members versus capacity of septic tanks. The Board also examined in-house water consumption amounts which are closely connected to waste water discharge.

    D. Type of Audit: Efficiency/Effectiveness

 E. Audit Findings and Recommendations

Most of the surveyed houses automatically applied the JIS table without adjusting the numbers to the per-house actual numbers of living family members.

Consequently installed over-capacity septic tanks as follows:

(1) The number of living family members of the majority of the houses who installed 10 person type tanks had actual numbers of living family members of less than 5 people at the time of tank installation.

(2) Approx. 40% of the houses had living family members less than half of the JIS-table-stipulated by-square-measure living family members  at the time of tank-installation and the living family members never increased afterwards.

(3) Per-day average water consumption of the biggest water consumption month was less than 1.0 cubic meter (capacity of the smallest 5 person type tank) in more than 40 % of the surveyed houses.

There were big gaps between the municipality-applied JIS table per-house living family members and actual per-house living family members. Had the households in (2) above installed one grade smaller capacity septic tanks, the MHW could have saved 391.61milllion State subsidy.

F. Action Taken by the MHW

   Based on the Board findings, the MHW in 1995 issued a written directive to prefectural governments. The directive directed prefectural governments to instruct municipalities to guide septic-tank-installing houses to reflect actual number of per-house living family members on tank-type selection.


Example 2: Merger of Waste Water Treatment Districts

 Audited Project: Farming Waste Water Disposal Program (FWWDP)

Outline of the Project

To control farming waste water quality, to improve farming districts’ living environment, and also to promote farming district waste water treatment, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery (MAFF) subsidizes municipalities for the cost of waste-water (human/livestock waste waters) treatment facility building.

Through Prefecural governments, the MAFF subsidizes farming district municipalities for the cost of building small scale sewerage facilities (number of beneficiary household more than 20; beneficiary farming population less than 1,000) in MAFF-designated Farming Development Areas each of them having several Waste Water Treatment Districts (WWTDs).  The MAFF subsidizes municipalities for the cost for WWTDs’ installing pipes, waste water treatment facilities and others.

Each municipality, in consultation with the Prefectural government in charge, establishes Waste Water Disposal Plan. Municipalities specifically are to explain and get agreement from their WWTDs’ farmers over cost-sharing for facility building/operation and the way of operation.

To efficiently and effectively implement the FWWDP based on longer perspective, the MAFF in 1994 prepared and distributed to the municipalities a FWWDP Planning Manual. The Manual stated that, except for the cases such as  (1) where municipalities have no time to consult with neighboring WWTDs due to urgency of project implementation, (2) where there are big gaps on FWWDP starting time between neighboring WWTDs, (3) where there are big opinion disparities among neighboring WWTD farmers over merger (These cases  are referred to as “exceptional cases”), the municipalities should study and consult  with the WWTD farmers, on the possibility of neighboring WWTDs’ mergers by merger versus non-merger cost-benefit analysis.

     C. Scope and Viewpoints of Audit

             The Board picked out 20 prefectures’ 102 municipalities who started or had plans to start FWWDP in 1995 (the next year of the FWWDP Planning Manual publication year)/thereafter, and examined whether municipalities’ decisions on merger/non-merger were well founded and appropriate.

D. Type of Audit: Economy/Efficiency

     E. Audit Findings and Recommendations

Total 70 WWDTs in 15 prefectures’ 31 municipalities failed to sufficiently study possibility of WWTD merger, and consequently failed to save project cost. These WWDTs were (i) those who started FWWDP in 1995 or thereafter and (ii) those neighboring WWDT in (i) and who actually started or planned to start within 5 years after the WWDTs in (i) started the FWWDP.

The 31 municipalities in (1) neither sufficiently examined the economy of WWTD merger nor sufficiently explained WWTD farmers on the economy of WWTD merger.

Had these municipalities merged neighboring 70 WWTDs into 33 WWTDs, they could have saved 7.0 billion (state subsidy3.6 billion) out of the total 113.0 billion project cost.

F. Action Taken by the MAFF

             Based on the Board finding, the MAFF amended the FWWDP Planning Manual in 2000 and instructed municipalities to study the economy of the WWTD merger in all the cases. The MAFF also instructed prefectures and municipalities to do in-depth study on economy of the merger. Further, the MAFF through prefectures instructed all the municipalities to re-examine currently ongoing FWWDP planning.