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The impacts of human activities on the water–land environment of the Shiyang River basin, an arid region in northwest China

Kang, Shaozhong, Su, Xiaoling, Tong, Ling, Shi, Peize, Yang, Xiuying, Abe, Yukuo, Du, Taisheng, Shen, Qinglin, Zhang, Jianhua
Hydrological sciences journal 2004 v.49 no.3 pp. 413-427
anthropogenic activities, arid zones, basins, climate change, desertification, groundwater, guidelines, irrigation water, mountains, rivers, runoff, soil, soil salinization, sustainable development, vegetation cover, water conservation, water shortages, water table, water use efficiency, watersheds, China
The Shiyang River basin is a typical interior river basin that faces water shortage and environmental deterioration in the arid northwest of China. Due to its arid climate, limited water resources and some inappropriate water-related human activities, the area has developed serious loss of vegetation, and gradual soil salinization and desertification, which have greatly impeded the sustainable development of agriculture and life in this region. In this paper, the impacts of human activities on the water–soil environment in Shiyang River basin are analysed in terms of precipitation, runoff in branches of the river, inflow into lower reaches, water conveyance efficiency of the canal system and irrigation water use efficiency in the field, replenishment and exploitation of groundwater resources, soil salinization, vegetation cover and the speed of desertification. The results show that human activities and global climate change have no significant influence on the precipitation, but the total annual runoff in eight branch rivers showed a significant decrease over the years. The proportion of water use in the upper and middle reaches compared to the lower reach was increased from 1:0.57 in the 1960s, to 1:0.27 in the 1970s and 1:0.09 in the 1990s. A reduction of about 74% in the river inflow to the lower reaches and a 15-m drop in the groundwater table have occurred during the last four decades. Strategies for improving the water–soil environment of the basin, such as the protection of the water resources of the Qilian Mountains, sustainable use of water resources, maintenance of the balance between land and water resources, development of water-saving agriculture, diverting of water from other rivers and control of soil desertification, are proposed. The objective of this paper is to provide guidelines for reconstruction of the sustainable water management and development of agriculture in this region.