Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2016, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (4): 397-414.doi: 10.1007/s11442-016-1276-1

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Quantitative characterization and comprehensive evaluation of regional water resources using the Three Red Lines method

Zheng ZANG1, Xinqing Zou1,2,3(), Xu XI4, Yu ZHANG4, Defeng ZHENG4, Caizhi SUN4   

  1. 1.School of Geographic and Oceanographic Sciences, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210023, China
    2.Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing 210093, China
    3.Key Laboratory of Coastal and Island Development (Nanjing University), Ministry of Education, Nanjing 210023, China
    4.School of Urban Planning and Environmental Science, Liaoning Normal University, Dalian 116029, Liaoning, China
  • Received:2015-07-03 Accepted:2015-10-22 Online:2016-04-25 Published:2016-04-25
  • About author:

    Author: Zang Zheng (1978-), PhD Candidate, specializes in management of natural resources. E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Zou Xinqing, Professor, E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Basic Science Personnel Training Fund, No J1103408 National Key Basic Research Program of China (973 program), No.2013CB956503


Based on the synergetic development of new industrialization, rapid urbanization and agricultural modernization (IUAM), and from the viewpoint of interactive relationships between water resources and regional population, eco-environment, economy and society, the concepts of water resources intensity (WRI), water environment intensity (WEI), water resources relative efficiency (WRRE) and water environment relative efficiency (WERE) are defined with reference to energy intensity, resources efficiency and environment efficiency theory. On the basis of benchmarking theory, the quantitative characterization and evaluation method of “Three Red Lines” (the upper limit of water resources allocation, the baseline of utilization efficiency of water resources and the upper limit of sewage discharge) is proposed. According to these concepts and models, an empirical analysis of the Three Red Lines of water resources on the Chinese mainland between 2003 and 2012 was carried out. The results showed that total water consumption in eastern, central and western parts of China possesses “club convergence” characteristics, which means these areas have similar internal conditions appeared convergence in the development. Inter-provincial differences in water consumption continue to decrease, but the north-south differentiation characteristics in the eastern and central regions were still relatively obvious, while provincial differences in the eastern part were at a minimum and the central region had the largest. Water Resources Efficiency (WRE) of all four sectors in the Southwest rivers and Huaihe River basins were generally high. Industrial WRRE in the Songhua River, Yangtze River and Pearl River basins, agricultural WRRE in the Songhua River, Yellow River and northwestern river basins and domestic WRRE in the Liaohe River, Yangtze River and Pearl River basins were all low. Eco-environmental WRRE in the southeastern rivers and Yangtze River basins were low but showed an upward trend. Other river basins, except for the Northwestern rivers basin, had high eco-environmental WRRE with a downward trend. Western China, especially the northwestern part, had a low relative intensity of the water environment (WERI) and high integrated water environment management (IWEM) performance, but the relative intensities of the water resources (WRRI) were fairly high, and the comprehensive performance of integrated water resources management (IWRM) in these regions was low. In southern China, especially the southeastern part, the IWEM was fairly high, but the overall IWRM was lower.

Key words: resource sciences, integrated management, empirical analysis, Red Line, China