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In recent years a high number of accidental water pollution incidents in China bring a serious threat to peoplepsilas livelihoods and health, the aquatic ecological system, economic development, and social stability. The traditional practice in water emergency management has been mainly focusing on mitigation after an incident. In fact prevention before an incident is more important than mitigation after an incident. Early warning is one of the most cost-effective, practical and comprehensive measures for prevention. There are many weaknesses and gaps in early warning system in China. Based on analysis of these deficiencies, a series of policy recommendations for establishing early warning system for water contamination incidents can be put forward.