Research Articles

Spatial correlations between urbanization and river water pollution in the heavily polluted area of Taihu Lake Basin, China

  • 1. State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, CAS, Nanjing 210008, China;
    2. Scientific Editor, White Clay Editorial, Newark, DE 19711, USA;
    3. College of Territorial Resources and Tourism, Anhui Normal University, Wuhu 241003, Anhui, China
Zhao Haixia, Ph.D, specialized in environmental geography. E-mail:|

Received date: 2012-10-16

  Revised date: 2013-03-05

  Online published: 2013-08-15

Supported by

Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.KZCX2-EW-315;National Water Pollution Control and Management Technology Major Projects, No.20082X07101-002;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41130750;135 Strategic Development Planning Project of Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, CAS, No.2012135006;Fund from the State Key Laboratory of Lake Science and Environment, Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, CAS


Water pollution in the Taihu Lake Basin has been the focus of attention in China and abroad for a long time, due to its position in the forefront of urban development in China. Based on data gathering and processing from 84 monitoring sections in this heavily polluted area, this study first analyzes spatial patterns of urbanization and the distribution of river water pollution, and then uses the GeoDa bivariate spatial autocorrelation model to investigate the spatial correlation between urbanization and river water pollution at the scale of township units. The results show that urbanization has adverse impacts on water pollution, and the influence varies in different levels of development areas. The urban township units have the highest level of urbanization and highest pollution, but the best water quality; the suburban units have lower level of urbanization, but higher pollution and worse water quality; however the rural units have the lowest level of urbanization and lowest pollution, mainly affected by upstream pollution, but worst water quality. Lastly, urban and rural planning committees, while actively promoting the process of development in the region, should gradually resolve the issue of pollution control lagging behind urban life and urban development, giving priority to construction of centralized sewage treatment facilities and associated pipeline network coverage in the rural areas and suburban areas.

Cite this article

ZHAO Haixia, DUAN Xuejun, Becky STEWART, YOU Bensheng, JIANG Xiaowei . Spatial correlations between urbanization and river water pollution in the heavily polluted area of Taihu Lake Basin, China[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2013 , 23(4) : 735 -752 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-013-1041-7


Al-Kharabsheh A, 1999. Influence of urbanization on water quality at Wadi Kufranja basin (Jordan). Journal of Arid Environments, 43: 79-89.
Al-Kharabsheh A, Ta'any R, 2003. Influence of urbanization on water quality deterioration during drought periods at South Jordan. Journal of Arid Environments, 53: 619-630.
Alberti M, Booth D, Hill K et al., 2007. The impact of urban patterns on aquatic ecosystems: An empirical analysis in Puget lowland sub-basins. Landscape and Urban Planning, 80: 345-361
Anselin L, 1995. Local indicators of spatial association-LISA. Geographical Analysis, 27(2): 93-115.
Atasoy M, Palmquist R B, Phaneuf D J, 2006. Estimating the effects of urban residential development on water quality using microdata. Journal of Environment Management, 79(4): 399-408.
Bao C, Fang C L, 2007. Water resources constraint force on urbanization in water deficient regions: A case study of the Hexi Corridor, arid area of NW China. Ecological Economics, 62: 508-517.
Bao C, Fang C L, 2009. Integrated assessment model of water resources constraint intensity on urbanization in arid area. Journal of Geographical Science, 19: 273-286, doi: 10.1007/s11442-009-0273-z.
Bhaduri B, Harbor J, Engel B et al., 2000. Assessing watershed-scale, long-term hydrologic impacts of land-use change using a GIS-NPS model. Environmental Management, 26(6): 643-658.
Brett M T, Arhonditsis G B, Mueller S E et al., 2005. Non-point-source impacts on stream nutrient concentrations along a forest to urban gradient. Environmental Management, 35: 330-342.
Butler D, Schütze M, 2005. Integrating simulation models with a view to optimal control of urban wastewater systems. Environment Model Software, 20: 415-426.
Callender E, Rice K C, 2000. The urban environmental gradient: Anthropogenic influences on the spatial and temporal distribution of lead and zinc in sediments. Environmental Science & Technology, 34: 232-238.
Chan H J, 2001. Effect of land use and urbanization on hydrochemistry and contamination of groundwater from Taejon area, Korea. Journal of Hydrology, 253: 194-210.
Chang H, 2008. Spatial analysis of water quality trends in the Han River basin, South Korea. Water Research, 42(13): 3285-3304.
Changzhou Municipal Statistics Bureau (CMSB), 2001 and 2008. Changzhou Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press. (in Chinese)
Cohen B, 2006. Urbanization in developing countries: Current trends, future projections, and key challenges for sustainability. Technology in Society, 28: 63-80.
Deng W, He Y, 1999. Water resource: One of the most important resource problems to be paid more attention to in the world in 21st century. Scientia Geographica Sinica, 12(2): 97-101. (in Chinese)
Duh J D, Shandas V, Chang H et al., 2008. Rates of urbanization and the resiliency of air and water quality. Science Total Environment, 400(1-3): 238-256.
Foster G D, Cui V, 2008. PAHs and PCBs deposited in surficial sediments along a rural to urban transect in a Mid-Atlantic coastal river basin (USA). Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A: Toxic/Hazardous Substances & Environmental Engineering, 43: 1333-1345.
Fu G T, Butler D, Khu S T, 2009. The impact of new developments on river water quality from an integrated system modeling perspective. Science of the Total Environment, 407: 1257-1267.
Gibert C S, Wendy A T, 2003. Watershed scale assessment of nitrogen and phosphorus loadings in the Indian River Lagoon Basin, Florida. Environmental Management, 67: 363-372.
Graniel C E, Morris L B, Carrillo-Rivera J J, 1997. Effects of urbanization on groundwater resources of Merida,
Yucatan, Mexico. Environmental Geology, 37(4): 303-312. He H, Zhou J, Wu Y et al., 2008. Modeling the response of surface water quality to the urbanization in Xi'an, China. Journal of Environment Management, 86(4): 731-749.
Hu W P, Zhai S J, Zhu Z C et al., 2008. Impacts of the Yangtze River water transfer on the restoration of Lake Taihu. Ecology Engineer, 34: 30-49.
International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP), 2005. Science Plan: Urbanization and Global Environmental Change, Report No.15. IHDP: Bonn; 64.
Interlandi S J, Crockett C S, 2003. Recent water quality trends in the Schuylkill River, Pennsylvania, USA: A preliminary assessment of the relative influences of climate, river discharge and suburban development. Water Research, 37: 1737-1748.
Jin X C, 2000. Control technology of eutrophical lake in China. Specialist dissertation of international learning workshop about eutrophical lake and its control technology in China. Dali China, 10: 215-223.
Kunwar P S, Amrita M, Sarita S, 2005. Water quality assessment and apportionment of pollution sources of Gomti River (India) using multivariate statistical techniques-a case study. Analytica Chimica Acta, 538: 355-374.
Lei J, Dong W, Yang Y et al., 2012. Interactions between water-land resources and oasis urban development at the northern slopes of the Tianshan Mountains, Xinjiang, China. Journal of Arid Land, 4(2): 221-229.
Li L Y, Hall K, Yuan Y et al., 2009. Mobility and bioavailability of trace metals in the water-sediment system of the highly urbanized Brunette Watershed. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 197: 249-266.
Li R G, Xia Y L, Wu A Z, 2000. Pollutants sources and their discharging amount in Taihu Lake area of Jiangsu Province. Journal of Lake Science, 12(2): 147-153. (in Chinese)
Li X, 2005. Environmental characteristics during the process of urbanization in south Jiangsu with concentrated population. Resources and Environment in the Yangtze Basin, 14(5): 595-599. (in Chinese)
Mancini L, Formichetti P, D'Angelo A M et al., 2005. Freshwater quality in urban areas: A case study from Rome, Italy. Microchemical Journal, 79: 177-183.
Ministry of Water Resources of China (MWRC), 1998. Regulation for Water Environmental Monitoring (SL219-98). Beijing: China Water Conservancy and Hydropower Press, 7-14. (in Chinese)
Nedeau E J, Merritta R W, Kaufman M G, 2003. The effect of an industrial effluent on an urban stream benthic community: Water quality vs. habitat quality. Environmental Pollution, 123: 1-13.
Normile D, 2008. China's living laboratory in urbanization. Science, 319: 740-743.
Olivera F, DeFee B B, 2007. Urbanization and its effect on runoff in the Whiteoak Bayou watershed, Texas. Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 43(1): 170-182.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 2005. Water and Violent Conflict. Development Assistance Committee: Mainstreaming Conflict Prevention, OECD: Paris; 10.
Schoonover J E, Lockaby B G, Pan S F, 2005. Changes in chemical and physical properties of stream water across an urban-rural gradient in western Georgia. Urban Ecosystems, 8: 107-124.
Society for International Development (SID), 2008. Urbanization and Water, SID Briefing Paper for Development: Water for People Volume 51. SID: Rome; 10.
State Environmental Protection Administration of China, 2002. Environmental Quality Standards for Surface Water. Beijing: China Environmental Science Press. (in Chinese)
Stone R, 2011. China aims to turn tide against toxic lake pollution. Science, 333(2): 1210-1211.
Su W Z, Gu C L, Yang G S et al., 2010. Measuring the impact of urban sprawl on natural landscape pattern of the western Taihu Lake watershed. Landscape and Urban Planning, 95(1/2): 61-67.
Sun W, Chen W, Chen C, 2010. Study on cooperative constraint regionalization of water environment and the guidance for industrial distribution: A case study of Jiangsu Province. Acta Geographica Sinica, 65(7): 819-827. (in Chinese)
Sun W, Chen W, Chen C et al., 2011. Constraint regionalization of water environment and the guidance for industrial layout: A case study of Jiangsu Province. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 21(5): 937-948.
Tsegaye T, Sheppard D, Islam K R et al., 2006. Development of chemical index as a measure of instream water quality in response to land-use and land cover changes. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 174: 161-179.
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2007. State of World Population 2007: Unleashing the Potential of Urban Growth. New York: NY UNFPA, 108.
Wang J Y, Da L J, Song K et al., 2008. Temporal variation of surface water quality in urban, suburban and rural areas during rapid urbanization in Shanghai, China. Environmental Pollution, 152: 387-393.
Wang X L, Lu Y L, Han J Y et al., 2007. Identification of anthropogenic influences on water quality of rivers in Taihu watershed. Journal of Environmental Sciences, 19(4): 475-481.
Wuxi Municipal Statistics Bureau, Survey Team of the National Bureau of Statistics in Wuxi (WMSB), 2001. Wuxi Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press. (in Chinese)
Wuxi Municipal Statistics Bureau, Survey Team of the National Bureau of Statistics in Wuxi (WMSB), 2008. Wuxi Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press. (in Chinese)
Yin Z Y, Walcott S, Kaplan B et al., 2005. An analysis of the relationship between spatial patterns of water quality and urban development in Shanghai, China. Computers, Environment and Urban Systems, 29(2): 197-221.
Yu S, Yu G B, Liu Y et al., 2011. Urbanization impairs surface water quality eutrophication and metal stress in the Grand Canal of China. River Research and Applications, (, doi: 10.1002/rra.1501.
Zhao H X, You B S, Duan X J et al., 2013. Industrial and agricultural effects on water environment and its optimization in heavily polluted area in Taihu Lake Basin, China. Chinese Geographical Science, 23(2): 203-215,doi: 10.1007/ s11769-013-0593-x.