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Spatial–Temporal Changes of Water Resources in a Typical Semiarid Basin of North China over the Past 50 Years and Assessment of Possible Natural and Socioeconomic Causes

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  • 1 * State Key Laboratory of Hydrology–Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing China
  • | 2 School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Sciences, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 3 NOAA/National Severe Storm Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 4 Department of Botany and Microbiology, Center for Spatial Analysis, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma
  • | 5 National Meteorological Information Center, Beijing, China
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Abstract

Hydrological processes in most semiarid regions on Earth have been changing under the impacts of climate change, human activities, or combinations of the two. This paper first presents a trend analysis of the spatiotemporal changes in water resources and then diagnoses their underlying atmospheric and socioeconomic causes over 10 catchments in the Laoha basin, a typical semiarid zone of northeast China. The impacts of climate variability and human activities on streamflow change were quantitatively evaluated by the VIC (Variable Infiltration Capacity) model. First, results indicate that six out of the 10 studied catchments have statistically significant downward trends in annual streamflow; however, there is no significant change of annual precipitation for all catchments. Two abrupt changes of annual streamflow at 1979 and 1998 are identified for the four largest catchments. Second, the Laoha basin generally experienced three evident dry–wet pattern switches during the past 50 years. Furthermore, this basin is currently suffering from unprecedented water shortages. Large-scale climate variability has affected the local natural hydrologic system. Third, quantitative evaluation shows human activities were the main driving factors for the streamflow reduction with contributions of approximately 90% for the whole basin. A significant increase in irrigated area, which inevitably resulted in tremendous agricultural water consumption, is the foremost culprit contributing to the dramatic runoff reduction, especially at midstream and downstream of the Laoha basin. This study is expected to enable policymakers and stakeholders to make well-informed, short-term practice decisions and better plan long-term water resource and ecoenvironment management strategies.

Corresponding author address: Bin Yong, Ph.D., Professor, State Key Laboratory of Hydrology–Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China. E-mail: yongbin_hhu@126.com

Abstract

Hydrological processes in most semiarid regions on Earth have been changing under the impacts of climate change, human activities, or combinations of the two. This paper first presents a trend analysis of the spatiotemporal changes in water resources and then diagnoses their underlying atmospheric and socioeconomic causes over 10 catchments in the Laoha basin, a typical semiarid zone of northeast China. The impacts of climate variability and human activities on streamflow change were quantitatively evaluated by the VIC (Variable Infiltration Capacity) model. First, results indicate that six out of the 10 studied catchments have statistically significant downward trends in annual streamflow; however, there is no significant change of annual precipitation for all catchments. Two abrupt changes of annual streamflow at 1979 and 1998 are identified for the four largest catchments. Second, the Laoha basin generally experienced three evident dry–wet pattern switches during the past 50 years. Furthermore, this basin is currently suffering from unprecedented water shortages. Large-scale climate variability has affected the local natural hydrologic system. Third, quantitative evaluation shows human activities were the main driving factors for the streamflow reduction with contributions of approximately 90% for the whole basin. A significant increase in irrigated area, which inevitably resulted in tremendous agricultural water consumption, is the foremost culprit contributing to the dramatic runoff reduction, especially at midstream and downstream of the Laoha basin. This study is expected to enable policymakers and stakeholders to make well-informed, short-term practice decisions and better plan long-term water resource and ecoenvironment management strategies.

Corresponding author address: Bin Yong, Ph.D., Professor, State Key Laboratory of Hydrology–Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China. E-mail: yongbin_hhu@126.com
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