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Analysis of groundwater resources in densely populated urban watersheds with a complex tectonic setting: Shenzhen, southern China

Lancia, Michele, Zheng, Chunmiao, Yi, Shuping, Lerner, David N., Andrews, Charles
Hydrogeology journal 2019 v.27 no.1 pp. 183-194
alluvium, aquifers, assets, atmospheric precipitation, base flow, bedrock, cities, drainage, drinking water, groundwater, irrigation, models, permeability, sedimentary rocks, streams, surface water, tectonics, water budget, water supply, watersheds, China
Shenzhen is the major financial and high-tech center in southern China. The megacity has grown rapidly in the last 40 years with the population increasing from about 30,000 in 1979 to 20 million in 2016. The study area (2,015 km²) is about 42% urban and 58% undeveloped land. The rapid development of the megacity has resulted in severe degradation of the groundwater and surface-water resources and has created a nearly insatiable demand for water, with an average consumption of 2000 × 10⁶ m³/year. Groundwater is an important component of the baseflow of the many streams in the area and is used for potable water supply and irrigation in some of the rural parts of the municipality. This study develops a conceptual model and quantitative framework for assessing the groundwater resources of Shenzhen. The groundwater system consists of shallow aquifers of alluvium and weathered bedrock overlying low permeability igneous and sedimentary rocks. The complex geologic setting was conceptualized as a block structure with blocks bounded by high-angle faults. The water budget in Shenzhen was quantified. The estimated average groundwater discharge is about 12% of annual precipitation. The study provides a starting point to investigate how a megacity such as Shenzhen should manage and protect its groundwater as a strategic resource and environmental asset. It is also a basic management tool for analyzing and contributing to urban drainage concepts such as the “sponge city”.