Orginal Article

Multi-object approach and its application to adaptive water management under climate change

  • HONG Si , 1, 3 ,
  • XIA Jun , 2 ,
  • CHEN Junxu 4* ,
  • WAN Long 1, 3 ,
  • NING Like 1, 3 ,
  • SHI Wei 2
  • 1. Key Laboratory of Water Cycle and Related Land Surface Processes, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • 2. State Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering Science, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China
  • 3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • 4. School of Resource, Environment and Earth Science, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China
*Corresponding author: Xia Jun, Professor, E-mail:

Received date: 2016-01-27

  Accepted date: 2016-04-11

  Online published: 2017-03-30

Supported by

Major National Scientific Research Projects, No.2012CB956204

National Basic Research Program of China, No.2015CB452701, No.2010CB428406

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.51279140




This paper addresses issues on adaptive water management under the impact of climate change. Based on a set of comprehensive indicators of water system, a decision making approach of multi-objects is developed and applied to quantify water adaptive management for the demands of water sustainable use, water environmental protection and eco-water requirement under the climate change. For this study in China, two key indicators are proposed, namely (1) the water resources vulnerability (V) that was represented by integrated sensitivity (S) and resilience (C) of climate change impact on water resources, and (2) the sustainability of socio-economy and water environment, marked by DD, that is integrated scaler of socio-economic development (EG) based on the amount of GDP and the water environment and relative eco-system quality (LI). To find a reasonable solution for adaptive water management, a multi-objective decision making model of adaptive water management is further developed and the multi-objective model was transformed into an integrated single optimization model through developing an integrated measure function, called as VDD=DD/V. This approach has been applied to adaptive water resources planning and management for case study of China with new policy, called as the strict management of water resources based on three red line controls, i.e., the control of total water use by the total water resources allocation, the control of lower water use efficiency by the water demand management and the control of the total waste water load by water quality management in the Eastern China Monsoon Region that covers major eight big river basins including Yangtze River, Yellow River, Haihe River and Huaihe River. It is shown that the synthetic representation of water resource vulnerability and socio-economic sustainability by the integrated objective function (VDD) and integrated decision making model are workable and practicable. Adaptive management effect of the criterion compliance rate and water use efficiency are more appreciable through new water policy of the three red line controls, which can reduce 21.3% of the water resources vulnerability (V) and increase 18.4% of the sustainability of socio- economy and water environment (DD) for the unfavorable scenario of climate change in 2030.

Cite this article

HONG Si , XIA Jun , CHEN Junxu , WAN Long , NING Like , SHI Wei . Multi-object approach and its application to adaptive water management under climate change[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2017 , 27(3) : 259 -274 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-017-1375-7

1 Introduction

The impact of climate change on water resource and the adaptive water management become a very important issue in the world and also in China (Bates et al., 2008; Xia et al., 2011; Akamani et al., 2011). There is much relative research and different definitions on adaptive water management at home and abroad (Govert, 1995; Sophocleous, 2000; Liao et al., 2004; Pahl-Wostl et al., 2005; Moglia et al., 2011). Based on relative research and analysis, the adaptive water management can be defined as a structured, iterative process of robust decision making in the face of uncertainty due to climate change, with an aim at reducing risk over time via system monitoring and time-variant planning and management. In this way, decision making simultaneously meets one or more resource management objectives and, either passively or actively, accrues information needed to improve future management. Adaptive management is a tool which should be used not only to change a system, but also to learn about the system (Holling, 1978). Adaptive management can improve long-run management outcomes based on a learning process. The challenge in using the adaptive management approach lies in finding the correct balance between gaining knowledge to improve management in the future and achieving the best short-term outcome based on current knowledge (Allan et al., 2008). And according to those this paper gives its own definition of adaptive water management as the generation of the implementation of water resources planning and water management strategies, including adverse effects caused by climate changes on water resources. It adopts a systematic procedure for learning and adjusting to improve the policy and practice of water resource management. It is aimed at enhancing the adaptive capacity and management policy of a water system to reduce water resource vulnerability caused by environmental change and to realize socio-economic sustainable development and sustainable utilization of water resources.
Since the 1990s, many related studies of water resource adaptive management to cope with climate change have been carried out at home and abroad (Aronson et al., 1992; Govert, 1995; Sophocleous, 2000; Liao et al., 2004; Gregory et al., 2006; Tong et al., 2006; Pahl-Wostl et al., 2008; Xia et al., 2008; Jin et al., 2010; Liu, 2010; Moglia et al., 2011), which mainly focused on the adaptive framework and countermeasures. For example, Govert D. Geldof considered the overall process of water resource integration management as a complex adaptive system to seek an equilibrium strategy adapted for constant change and to perform early water resource adaptive management (Govert, 1995). Pahl-Wostl proposed that adaptive management has a general iterative process, including setting management goals; establishing management policy; implementing, monitoring and evaluating policy; and evaluating national policy. After national policy evaluation, it will perform feedback on the original objectives and policies in the early stage loop iteration (Pahl-Wostl, 2008). In order to use water resource efficiently, Gregory R et al. established a framework based on strategy analysis and applied adaptive management to the environmental policy of water resource utilization in British Columbia (Gregory et al., 2006). Tong Jinping et al. ventured the architecture of water resources adaptive management for a river basin (Tong et al., 2006). Jin Shuai et al. analyzed defects of complexity, nondeterminacy and the current mode of management of water resources in a river basin. It proposed policy suggestions regarding five aspects, namely management environment, management system, decision-making mechanism, management, and scientific research function (Jin et al., 2010). Liu Fang proposed an organization structure related to adaptive water management in Shandong Province (Liu, 2010). Xia Jun proposed an evaluation tool for impacts of climate change (Xia et al., 2008).
The critical concept of the effect of climate change on water resources includes vulnerability, resilience, adaptation and comprehensive risk. Based on the latest research results of SREX, IPCC AR5 expanded the evaluation framework of climate change risks, and they emphasized the interactive connection between exposure risk, vulnerability and adaptation that resulted from disasters and socio-economic development since 2012. The relationship is as shown in Figure 1 (IPCC, 2013). Based on the study of theories and methods related to water resource vulnerability, it focused on exploration of adaptive water management. It quantitatively studied the effects of climate change on water resources.
Figure 1 Framework diagram of risks associated with the interaction of hazard, exposure and vulnerability related to climate
(Note: The figure is originated from IPCC AR5, 2013.)
Research at home and abroad has made some recent progress now. Adaptive water management lacks an interactive system linking evaluation and adaptation of water resource vulnerability, which results in separate study of the vulnerability and adaptability of water resources. It lacks a connection and can hardly reduce the vulnerability of a water resource through adaptive management. Consequently, this paper attempts to establish a connection between adaptation and vulnerability, based on water resource vulnerability evaluation, to explore the multi-objective optimization problems based on the nature of adaptive management. It focuses on studies of conversion of multi-objects to single-objects to make adaptation countermeasures feasible.

2 Framework of adaptive water management based on a decision making approach of multi-objects

Nowadays water resources system issues include water supply and water demands problem, water pollution and eco-water demands problem. So adaptive water management is a complex regulation system responding to climate change, involving multi-scales, processes (drainage basin hydrological processes, regional land surface processes, atmospheric circulation processes), interactions and control targets associated with natural and socio-economic systems. To address climate changes for sustainable utilization and management of Chinese water resources, it involves the effect of climate change on changes in water resource availability, changes in water consumption associated with industry, agriculture and environmental ecological use, as well as links to the balance between supply and demand for water resources and sustainable utilization of water resource problems. It is further related to support for socio- economic sustainable development of water resources security. Consequently, the model needs to consider objective criteria for combating climate change. It is necessary to establish a multi-objective model and solving method to establish water resource adaptive management practices specific to climate change scenarios.

2.1 Comprehensive indicators of water system

Climate change has caused many types of influences and consequences on water resources: destruction of the balance between supply and demand, unsustainable socio-economic development, and deterioration of the eco-environment are particularly significant. This study proposed two basic principles requiring adaptive water management related to quantitative research under the influence of climate change:
1) Reducing water resources vulnerability (V)
Water resource vulnerability refers to the degree of impacts of climate change on water resources (supply-demand relationship and configuration). It is expected that extreme weather events will become more frequent in the future. The pattern of southern floods and northern droughts will be further increased. In addition, the shortage of water resources will continue across the country, aggravating the water resources vulnerability. Consequently, adaptive water management requires the reduction of adverse effects on regional water resource vulnerability.
From the report of the IPCC, disaster risk represents the intersection of weather, climate events, and system vulnerability. Clearly, the water resource vulnerability should not only consider the sensitivity of the climate, but also the resistance of the system to socio-economic pressure. The adaptability is related to socio-economic scale, water resource endowment and exposure. Thus, the paper will extend the treatment of the core water resources vulnerability to respond to climate change, population carrying capacity and socio-economy under adverse conditions. The formula is (Xia et al., 2012; Chen, 2014):
VI = f (S, C, E, RI) (1)
where VI is the vulnerability index, S is sensibility, C is resilience, E is exposure, and RI is the risk index.
According to the IPCC report, Xia Jun et al. proposed that vulnerability should be evaluated based on the effect of sensitivity and adaptability on water resources in response to climatic variation (Xia et al., 2012; Chen, 2014):
where S(t) is the sensitivity function, C(t) is the resilience function or recoverable function, and t refers to evaluation time.
When performing the evaluation of multi-attributes of the system, the formula can be synthesized as the vulnerability (Chen et al., 2014):
where V refers to comprehensive vulnerability, S(t)i refers to the sensibility of the water resource system on the ith paper evaluation, C(t)i refers to the resilience of the water resource system on the ith evaluation, E(t)i refers to the exposure of the water resource system on the ith evaluation, RI(t)i refers to the risk index of the water resource on the ith evaluation, and θi refers to the corresponding scale factor of the ith evaluation.
2) Enhancing the sustainability of socio-economy and water environment (DD)
First of all, sustainable development requires that the life-support system on the earth (such as air, water and soil) is not destroyed; namely, human well-being should be ensured at least under the conditions for survival within the maximum carrying capacity limits. Simultaneously, sustainable development encourages economic growth. However, it not only focuses on increasing quantity, but also on improvement of quality.
Sustainable development is an approach to development that is based on protecting the natural environment, improving and enhancing the quality of life, and coordinating the carrying capacity of environmental resources.
There are many current international and domestic studies on the problem of how to quantize sustainable development, which faces many challenges. We selected a quantitative indicator (DD) for the sustainability of socio-economy and water environment. Its basic concept is based on an approach to the measurement of current sustainable development, such as the social welfare function method and the index system method, through quantitative description of fuzzy mathematics to combine the integrate DD indexes of two duplet sets. DD represents the integration of the index LI describing the water environment and relative eco-system quality with socio-economic development indicator EG described by the GDP function. DD is a quantized measure of sustainable development within the T time frame in the water resource system (dimensionless quantity), where DD(T)∈[0,1]. It can be expressed as (Xia et al., 2014):
where LI is the water environment and relative eco-system quality, EG is socio-economic development as description of “economic growth”, β1 and β2 are exponential weights given to the quantized value of “economic growth” and the membership of “bearable”, respectively. Values of β1 and β2 are assigned according to the degree of importance.
DD(T) is a “scale” of “development” for the T phase. For the same system and phase, the larger the value of DD(T), the higher the degree of development will be and the higher the benefits. Among them, “sustainability” can be defined as DD(T)≥DD(T-1). Thus, it can seek the optimal development approach through adjusting the internal structure and resource allocation, etc.
(a) Actually, “bearable” membership LI(T) is a quantitative description of human existence in the environment. It can describe the “bearable” degree through membership in fuzzy mathematics. It assumes an indicator Yi(T) (where i is the index number and T is time phase) and selects the limit Yi0. The corresponding membership is μLI(Yi(T)). The bearable membership of the whole system is:
where n1 indicator considers whether or not the whole system is bearable, LI(T) refers to bearable membership of the whole system at the T phase, and ai refers to the index weight of the ith indicator. A value for ai is assigned according to the degree of importance of each indicator.
(b) “Economic growth”, EG(T), is a quantitative description of economic growth. SP(T) is the economic index (such as gross national product, gross output values of industry and agriculture, national income, per capita gross national product). The value of SP(T) for the initial year (the “basic unit” for the time quantum is set as a year) is set as the reference value SP0. To realize the nondimensionalization of the data, initialization can be performed as x = SP(T) / SP0. Actually, x is the economic growth ratio of any year relative to the initial year. The “economic growth index” is quantified as
where a is the undetermined coefficient and x = SP(T) / SP0.

2.2 Analysis of regulation variables for reducing water resource vulnerability under climate change

Decision variables for water resource adaptive management under the background of climate change refer to the applicable countermeasures in terms of human activities in response to climate change. Scholars at home and abroad, such as Xia Jun et al., proposed an evaluation model and method for assessing water resource vulnerability (Xia et al., 2012; Chen, 2014). The indicator system for water resource vulnerability includes three key indicators: water-use driven mobilization level (r: use-to-availability as a percentage of water availability), water resource carrying capacity (P/Q: population per water unit), and per capita water use (WD/P: water intake in cubic meters per capita per year). The three indicators are closely related to the maximum available water resource (WDmax), total water consumption (WD), eco-water use (WE), minimum eco-water demand (WEmin), water use efficiency (WUE) and criterion compliance rate of the water function area (RWF), as well as other based indexes. The regulation variables can be further determined according to the internal relationship (Figure 2) between key indicators and the adaptability to combat climate change and the reduction of water resource vulnerability. These variables include the water resource multi-objective decision variables: total water consumption (x1), water use efficiency (x2), criterion compliance rate of the water function area (x3), and eco-water demand (x4).
Figure 2 Key index of water resource vulnerability and adaptation

2.3 Multi-objective decision making model of adaptive water management under
climate change

Specific to regulation principles and the relationship between the vulnerability and adaptation of regulation variables, the water quality of the water balance constraints is connected by the watershed hydrology model of the water resource system. Through extraction, the multi-objective optimization model of water resource adaptation can be built to combat climate change. The general structure of the objective function of the model is shown below:
According to the physical status of the Eastern China Monsoon Region and the representative basin, we selected the following two key indicators as the multi-objective function.
1) Decrease the target of vulnerability:
The minimum water resource vulnerability (V) of each planned year of the region represents the maximum. Namely:
At the solution of the objective function optimization, it is necessary to transform the subgoal f2(X) to the maximum total goal, namely:
subject to the constraint condition:
where SDDT is the membership degree of the trend, WUm is the available water of the meterage unit, WUEm is the water resources utilization rate of the meterage unit; (QEm,i)min is minimum demand discharge of the NO.m river basin, and QEm,i is the actual discharge of the NO.m river basin.
2) Targets of the sustainability of socio-economy and water environment:
The sustainability of socio-economy and water environment (DD) of each planned year of the region represents the maximum. Namely,
where DD is the quantized value (dimensionless quantity) of the sustainability of socio-economy and water environment within the time frame T, where DD(T)∈[0, 1].

2.4 Multi-objective model solution

The multi-objective model solution is a complicated nonlinear and dynamic planning problem. Because the water resources system under the climate change is a large-scale system, the multivariable solution is a typical high dimension problem. To solve the problem, the paper proposed a solving method to convert the multi-object to a single-object. According to the water resource vulnerability (V), the logical relationship between the sustainability of socio-economy and water environment (DD) and adaptive management can further simplify the multi-object to a single-object to establish a quantitative method for an integrated measure function called VDD. The core is economic growth that simultaneously considers damage to the environment, namely, comprehensive benefit analysis of economic growth, environmental loss, and water resources vulnerability. In addition, it studies the functional relationship and analyzes the comprehensive benefits of water resource regulation.
Figure 3 Tendency correlation analysis of VDD, V and DD
Under the impact of climate change, the larger the water resource vulnerability, the weaker the water resources will be; the higher the sustainable development, the stronger the adaptive capacity of the water resource will be. It can be seen from the correlation analysis in Figure 3 that the adaptive management object of a water resource is in direct proportion to its sustainable development, and it is inversely proportional to water resource vulnerability. This means that the adaptability of water resources management goals and sustainable development may reach a high level.
Consequently, the relationship between sub-objective functions can combine and simplify the multi-objective functional model of water resource adaptive management to the following single objective function:
The goal of adaptive management is to select the adjustment measure for comprehensive benefit maximization. The objective function is as below:
Because the conversion is for a single objective function, each regulation variable has a direct relationship with the target. Satisfactory solutions can be obtained through a physical feasible design domain to detect the optimal solution. The solution method is also simple and effective.

3 Application of adaptive water resources planning and management

3.1 Analysis of the status quo of water resources in the Eastern China Monsoon Region

The approach above has been applied to adaptive water resources planning and management for case study of China with new policy, called as the strict management of water resources based on the three red line controls, i.e., the control of total water use by the total water resources allocation, the control of lower water use efficiency by the water demand management and control of the total waste water load by water quality management in the study region that covers major eight big river basins including Yangtze River, Yellow River, Haihe River, Huaihe River. This region, which is a back inland plateau and facing the sea, has about 45% of the country land area and 95% of the country’s total population. The vulnerability of water resources here has a significant spatial anisotropy.
Figure 4 V: water resource vulnerability (2000)
Figure 5 DD: degree of sustainable development (2000)
Figure 6 VDD: development and comprehensive benefits (2000)
Under current conditions (2000), the calculation results and space distribution of water resource vulnerability and sustainable development in the Eastern China’s Monsoon Region are shown in Figures 4 and 5. The calculation results and the spatial pattern of the integrated development benefit objective function are shown in Figure 6. The following indicators are adopted to calculate VDD, considering the main indicators of national water conservancy development and the actual application data (Statistic Bulletin on China Water Activities et al., 2000-2011) such as Statistic Bulletin on China Water Activities. Among them, the economic performance index (EG) includes per capita GDP bearable indicators (LI), including the river length ratios of the five types of water.
The analysis and evaluation indicate that, under the status quo, the coastal economic zones, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region (with Beijing as the center), and the northeast part have rapid socio-economic development in China, in addition to drainage basins with severe water pollution in the Haihe River basin of North China. All of these regions have water resources vulnerability. Taking the Haihe River basin as an example, because the economic conditions are developed in association with serious environmental deterioration, the sustainable development (DD) is at a minimum. Simultaneously, the water resource vulnerability (V) is at a maximum. Thus, the VDD value of the water resource adaptation to environmental deterioration is the worst. It can be seen from the analysis that the comprehensive characterization results of water resource vulnerability and sustainable development are effective and reasonable.
From Figure 6, it can be seen that the regions with the worst integrated development effectiveness in the Eastern China Monsoon Region, where the values of VDD are lower than 0.2, are mainly located in the Haihe River basin. The Haihe River basin is followed by the Yellow River and Huaihe River basins, where the VDD values are between 0.2 and 0.4. Most of the other regions, such as the Yangtze River basin, have moderate integrated development effectiveness, where the VDD value is between 0.4 and 0.6. The VDD value at the westernmost part of the Yangtze River basin is the highest, indicating the best integrated development effectiveness. From the above analysis, adaptive management measures are urgently required for improving the integrated development effectiveness of the water resources of the river basins.

3.2 Adaptation control analysis for secondary drainage basins of the Eastern China Monsoon Region based on national policy under future climate conditions

Because the impact of climate changes on the water resources in the future has not been determined, it is appropriate to use the most adverse scenario analysis in terms of climate change based on the principle of “the minimum regret”. It is an efficient approach to risk analysis of the nondeterminacy of climatic variation. The future climate change scenarios include the Representative Concentration Pathways emission scenarios RCP2.6 (low), RCP4.5 (moderate) and RCP8.5 (high). This research adopted RCP4.5, which is close to the emission situation of 2030 in the future. Analyses of various possible impacts on inflow and water consumption are carried out, and the unfavorable scenario (minimum runoff) of climate change in 2030 is selected for the analysis of different adaptive countermeasures and measures based on VDD. The corresponding VDD results of the unfavorable scenario of climate change in 2030 are shown in Figure 7.
Figure 7 VDD for the unfavorable scenario of climate change in 2030
The VDD value of each drainage basin has decreased in terms of the worst situation compared with that of the year 2000, namely, the integrated development effectiveness has become worse. This indicates that the sustainable development tendency of the water resource encounters a critical challenge.
The following adaptive control measures will be adopted for the unfavorable scenario of climate change in 2030 according to sustainable development and for the strict management of water resources: (1) regulation of the total water consumption of 700 billion m3 and revision of the decomposed total quantity control in the each river basin of Eastern China Monsoon Region; (2) water use efficiency regulation (agriculture, industry, life), where the water use efficiency in 2030 will reach the world “advanced” level, the industrial added value per every ten thousand RMB will decrease below 40 m3, and the efficient utilization coefficient of irrigation water will be above 0.6; (3) water quality management regulation to determine the threshold for allowable limits for dirty accommodation in the water functional area, where the main control of the total quantities of the main contaminants should be within the water functional area until 2030 and the criterion compliance rate of water function area will be up to 95%; (4) eco-water regulation for rivers and lakes, where the minimum eco-water demand of the water resource plan will gradually improve the assurance rate of eco-water utilization before 2030.
To seek the path of adaptive water management in the Eastern China Monsoon Region, we need to analyze the effect of different management strategies and the optimal countermeasure proposal. The combination of regulatory decisions is shown in Table 1.
Table 1 Combination of regulatory decisions
Scheme Control variables (Decision variables)
Water consumption Water use efficiency Criterion compliance rate Eco-water
Figure 8 Result analysis of V after control
Figure 9 Result analysis of DD after control
According to the target (i.e., theories and methods of adaptive water management under climate change), we completed the adaptive management analysis of the 15 different scenarios, which focused on those of schemes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 15.
Results of the analyses of V and DD after each single control and the integrated control are shown in Figures 8 and 9. Results of the analyses of ΔV(%) and ΔDD(%) after controlling countermeasures are shown in Figures 10 and 11.
The spatial distribution of the VDD results for secondary drainage basins of the Eastern China Monsoon Region after each single control and the integrated control are shown in Figures 12-16.
Figure 10 Result analysis of V (%) after control
Figure 11 Result analysis of ΔDD (%) after control
Figure 12 VDD after the control of water consumption (scheme 1)
According to the above analysis, it can be seen that the effect after different control schemes is different for the unfavorable scenario of climate change in 2030 in the eight river basins of the Eastern China Monsoon Region. For the goal of reducing water vulnerability, the most sensitive single controls include water use efficiency and the criterion compliance rate control, followed by water consumption and eco-water control. For the goal of sustainable management of water resources, the most sensitive single controls are the criterion compliance rate control, followed by water use efficiency, eco-water control and water consumption. In the satisfactory set for the targets of V and DD, scheme 15 is optimal, as it results in a 21.3% decrease in V and an 18.4% increase in DD. Different from previous studies, this paper provides a method to quantify the change of the vulnerability and sustainable development for each river basin after different measures are taken. For example, after taking comprehensive control measures (scheme 15), V of the Haihe River basin has a reduction of 33.1%, while V of the Huaihe River basin decreased by 25.4%, and V of the Yellow River Basin decreased by 16.6%; also DD of the Haihe River basin increased as high as 18.69%, while DD of the Huaihe River Basin increased by 15.6%, and DD of the Yellow River basin increased by 10.4%.
It can be seen from the spatial distribution of results that VDD values in certain regions will be improved to varying degrees. The influences of different measures are different for different drainage basins: after regulation of the total water consumption, VDD at the middle of the Songhua and Yangtze River basins attained an average value. The integrated development effectiveness will be raised to a higher level. After regulation of ET, the integrated development effectiveness in the eastern Yellow River basin and northwestward in the Liaohe River basin will be promoted to a higher level. After regulation of the criterion compliance rate of the water function area, the VDD value will vary for a small number of areas in the Yellow River, Haihe River and Liaohe River basins. The VDD values will increase to various degrees after regulation of eco-water utilization in certain drainage basins. From that, it can be seen that the VDD values will determine the influence of different control measures on the degree of benefit to the integrated development of the river basin, and it will choose the most targeted measure as the most effective adaptive control measure.
Figure 13 VDD after the control of water use efficiency (scheme 2)
Figure 14 VDD after the control of the criterion compliance rate (scheme 3)
Figure 15 VDD after the control of eco-water (scheme 4)
Figure 16 VDD after the integrated control (scheme 15)

4 Conclusions

1) The paper focuses on studies of the transformation of multi-objects to single-objects
based on interactive cooperation between water resource vulnerability and adaptive man-
agement. It proposed a comprehensive development benefit function (VDD) for coupling
“development indicator measurement” (DD) and “water resource vulnerability” (V). In
addition, it verified the feasibility and rationality of expressing the VDD function through
examples. Eventually, it proposed a theoretical basis for specific adaptive management measures.
2) The calculation results and space distribution analysis of VDD in the Eastern China Monsoon Region showed that the influence of climate change on water resources is significant in this region. Thus, it is urgently required to take adaptive management measures to improve the integrated development effectiveness of the water resources of the river basins.
3) Based on the integrated measure function VDD, this approach has been applied to adaptive water resources planning and management for case study of China with new policy, called as the strict management of water resources based on the three red line controls, i.e., the control of total water use by the total water resources allocation, the control of lower water use efficiency by the water demand management and the control of the total waste water load by water quality management in the Eastern China Monsoon Region. The results showed that the effects in certain regions are more appreciable than in others and that relatively sensitive control variables can be recognized. Adjustment measures can be specifically proposed. It turned out that the single control effect of the criterion compliance rate and water use efficiency are more obvious, and the integrated control of the four measures gains the most significant effect, which can cause a significant increase in the comprehensive benefits of sustainable development. The single control effect can enhance the sustainable development of comprehensive benefits, and it can alleviate the water resources vulnerability under climate change mitigation within the maximum range. And for the unfavorable scenario of climate change in 2030, adaptive management effect of the criterion compliance rate and water use efficiency is most appreciable through new water policy of the three red line controls, which can reduce 21.3% of the water resources vulnerability (V) and increase 18.4% of the sustainability of socio-economy and water environment (DD).
Other data sources include the China Water Conservancy Almanac, the National Water Conservancy Development Statistical Bulletin, the China Water Resources Bulletin, the China Floods and Droughts Bulletin and the China City Statistical Yearbook.

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Akamani K, Wilson P I, 2011. Toward the adaptive governance of transboundary water resources.Conservation Letters, 4(6): 409-416.Abstract Top of page Abstract Introduction Transboundary water resources Resilience and adaptive governance Adaptive governance and transboundary water resources Policy implications of the transition toward adaptive governance Conclusion and recommendations References Transboundary water resources, such as international river basins, pose complex and often contentious management challenges. In response to the failures associated with the state-centric approach to the governance of international waters, discussions on transboundary water resources governance over the last two decades or so have focused largely on public involvement. The need to build resilience into such governance systems has been virtually overlooked. Based on a conceptualization of transboundary water resources as complex social-ecological systems, the manuscript proposes adaptive governance as a unifying framework for informing policies aimed at promoting the conservation of transboundary water resources in an increasingly unpredictable future. The key attributes of adaptive governance satisfy the requirements for good governance of transboundary water resources, as well as preparing the coupled social-ecological system to respond to unpredictable drivers of change.


Allan C, Curtis A, Stankey G et al.Stankey G ., 2008. Adaptive Management and Watersheds: A Social Science Perspective.Jawra Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 44(1): 166-174.Abstract: Adaptive management is often proposed as the most effective way to manage complex watersheds. However, our experience suggests that social and institutional factors constrain the search for, and integration of, the genuine learning that defines adaptive management. Drawing on our work as social scientists, and on a guided panel discussion at a recent AWRA conference, we suggest that watershed-scale adaptive management must be recognized as a radical departure from established ways of managing natural resources if it is to achieve its promise. Successful implementation will require new ways of thinking about management, new organizational structures and new implementation processes and tools. Adaptive management encourages scrutiny of prevailing social and organizational norms and this is unlikely to occur without a change in the culture of natural resource management and research. Planners and managers require educational, administrative, and political support as they seek to understand and implement adaptive management. Learning and reflection must be valued and rewarded, and fora established where learning through adaptive management can be shared and explored. The creation of new institutions, including educational curricula, organizational policies and practices, and professional norms and beliefs, will require support from within bureaucracies and from politicians. For adaptive management to be effective researchers and managers alike must work together at the watershed-scale to bridge the gaps between theory and practice, and between social and technical understandings of watersheds and the people who occupy and use them.


Aronson J, Kigel J, Shmida A et al.., 1992. Adaptive phenology of desert and mediterranean populations of annual plants grown with and without water-stress.Oecologia, 89(1): 17-26.The dynamics of vegetative and reproductive growth were compared in matched pairs of Mediteranean and desert populations of three unrelated annual species, Erucaria hispanica (L.) Druce, Brachypodium distachyon (L.) Beauv. and Bromus fasciculatus C. Presl., under high and low levels of water availability in a common-environment experiment. Plants of all desert populations showed earlier switches to reproductive development and to subsequent phenophases, and the transition to flowering occurred at smaller plant sizes. Water stress had no effect ( E. hispanica ) or slightly accelerated the transition to flowering in B. fasciculatus (by 1–2 days) and in B. distachyon (by 4–6 days). Plant senescence was strongly enhanced by water stress, and this enhancement was greater in desert populations than in corresponding Mediterranean ones. Duration of life cycle was greatly shortened by water stress in all three species. Desert and Mediterranean populations of the three species exhibited small differences in their relative response, i.e. phenotypic plasticity, to water stress for phenological and plant size parameters. In E. hispanica and B. fasciculatus the population x water regime interaction amounted to less than 3% of total variance. By contrast, the Mediterranean population of B. distachyon was much more plastic in its response to water stress than the desert population in its transition to plant senescence. Plants from the desert populations appeared to be adapted to shorter, more compact growth cycles, culminating in earlier dates of seed maturation and plant senescence. In addition, they showed larger phenotypic plasticity in the transition to plant senescence, which trait was enhanced or magnified by sustained or repeated lack of water. By contrast, plants from Mediterranean populations delayed switchover from one phenophase to the next, seeming thus to “bet” on more water being forthcoming.


Bates B, Kundzewicz Z W, Wu Set al., 2008. Climate change and water. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): IPCC Technical Paper VI.

Bulletin of Flood and Drought Disasters in China, 2000-2011. Beijing: China Water & Power Press. (in Chinese)

Chen Junxu, 2014. Research on vulnerability of water resources and adaption management to improve water quality of the water function area under changing environment in eastern monsoon areas [D]. Beijing: University of Chinese Academy of Sciences. (in Chinese)

Chen J, Xia J, Zhao Z et al.Zhao Z ., 2016. Using the RESC model and diversity indexes to assess the cross-scale water resource vulnerability and spatial heterogeneity in the Huai River Basin, China.Water, 8(10): 431. doi: 10.3390/w8100431.Performing a multiscale assessment of water resource vulnerability on the basis of political boundaries and watersheds is necessary for adaptive water resources management. Using the Risk-Exposure-Sensitivity-Adaptability model (RESC model), the water resource vulnerability of the Huai River Basin was assessed using four scales, namely, Class II, Class III, Province-Class II, and Municipality-Class III WRR (Water Resources Region). Following this, the spatial heterogeneity of the vulnerability of the above four scales was evaluated with the Theil and the Shannon-Weaver index. The results demonstrate that, instead of moving towards convergence, water resource vulnerability presents different grades which change together with the change in scale, and in turn, tend to weaken from east to west. Of the four scales, the scale of Municipality-Class III WRR shows the most significant spatial diversity, whereas that of Class II WRR shows the least diversity. With spatial downscaling, the vulnerability demonstrates high spatial heterogeneity and diversity. Herein, an innovative cross-scales vulnerability assessment is proposed and the RESC model characteristics and uncertainties as well as the employment of cross-scale water resource vulnerability are discussed.


China City Statistical Yearbook, 2000-2011. Beijing: China Statistical Press. (in Chinese)

China Water Conservancy Yearbook, 2000-2011. Beijing: China Water & Power Press. (in Chinese)

China Water Resources Bulletin, 2000-2011. Beijing: China Water & Power Press. (in Chinese)

Govert D Geldof, 1995. Adaptive water management: Integrated water management on the edge of chaos.Water Science and Technology, 32(1): 7-13.The usefulness of the approach becomes clear if we look at the discussion in urban water management about the applicability of source control and end-of-pipe techniques. The approach provides a strategy for handling uncertainties.


Gregory R, Failing L, Higgins P, 2006. Adaptive management and environmental decision making: A case study application to water use planning. Ecological Economics, 58(2): 434-447. PubMed PMID: WOS: 000238671700015.Adaptive management (AM) techniques are one of the principal tools proposed by environmental decision makers to provide flexible and responsive management approaches over time. However, the record of successful applications is surprisingly small. We believe that this in part reflects the lack of an intuitively plausible framework for evaluating AM initiatives. This paper outlines such a framework, based on the insights of decision analysis, for evaluating the use of AM as a technique to improve environmental management decisions. British Columbia's Water Use Plan (WUP) process, which has developed operating plans for more than 20 major hydroelectric facilities, is introduced as a case-study example. The discussion emphasizes that decisions to adopt adaptive management strategies involve judgments concerning tradeoffs across a variety of economic, environmental, and social objectives. As a result, adaptive management initiatives need to be carefully evaluated based on their merits relative to other alternatives. Within an AM framework, alternative experimental designs should be evaluated because the design of a preferred experiment involves choices among different levels of investment, the quality of available and desired future information, and different ecological, economic, and social risks.


Holling C S, 1978. Adaptive Environmental Assessment and Management. London: John Wiley &Sons.

IPCC, 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Work Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Stockholm, Sweden: IPCC.This report presents clear and robust conclusions in a global assessment of climate change science. The report confirms that warming in the climate system is unequivocal, with many of the observed changes unprecedented over decades to millennia.


Jin Shuai, Sheng Zhaohan, Liu Xiaofeng, 2010. Complexity analysis on watershed system and adaptive management.China Population, Resources and Environment, 20(7): 60-67. (in Chinese)Resources,environment,ecology become the main constraints to China's long-term sustainable development.On the basis of analysis of the characters of China's water crisis,Social-economic-natural complex-watershed-system is analyzed from the perspective of complex systems,revealing that the complexity and uncertainty in watershed management make the management a long-term,complex and arduous systematic prosect;on the other hand,the shortages and weaknesses of current management regime are discussed through analyzing the course of water environment and resource management in China,and current regime could not solve watershed problems.Then,the paper proposed that adaptive management is an effective strategy for improving management capacities.At last,policy recommendations on management environment,management structure,decision mechanism,management measure and scientific research are made through the comparison between adaptive management and current management regimes.

Liao Wengen, Shi Qiuchi, Beng Jing, 2004. Advanced research about water ecology and water environment subject and the development trends.China Water Resources, 22: 34-36. (in Chinese)

Liu Fang, 2010. Water Resources Adaptive Management based on AHP.Modern Management Science, (9): 108-110. (in Chinese)

Moglia M, Cook S, Sharma A K et al.Sharma A K ., 2011. Assessing decentralised water solutions: Towards a framework for adaptive learning.Water Resources Management, 25(1): 217-238.This paper reports on the use of qualitative analysis to inform a risk analysis framework for decentralised water systems. To realise the benefits from these technologies, a methodology is applied to learn from previous difficulties in implementing and managing them. A workshop process was used to capture stories from industry professionals on difficulties they have encountered in planning and implementation. Qualitative analysis of story narratives revealed stages where there was some type of development process failure; as well as failure modes and factors influencing the difficulties encountered. The analysis also generated insights: difficulties in one part of the development process tends to propagate to subsequent stages; system difficulties most often occurred in the policy stage of development due to institutional inertia and lack of adaptive governance; and the best indicator of problems with a decentralised system was complaints of poor water quality. Furthermore, this paper also provides a method to learn from past difficulties by identifying what data needs to be collected in order to populate a risk model which can be used for improving risk assessment of the development process for decentralised systems. This can provide a basis for better decision making, policy and guidelines; an important factor in mainstream acceptance.


Pahl-Wostl C, 2008. Requirements for Adaptive Water Management. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.Numerous arguments have been put forward regarding the need for a major change in water resources management. In particular increasing awareness of the impacts of climate change has lead to the insight that water management must be become more flexible in order to deal with uncertainties and surprise. This paper argues for a paradigm shift through the development and implementation of integrated and adaptive water management approaches. Adaptive management is defined here as a systematic process for improving management policies and practices by learning from the outcomes of implemented management strategies.Development and implementation of adaptive management approaches requires structural changes in water management regimes. Such changes are slow due the inertia inherent in prevailing regimes. Concepts for understanding water regime properties and transition processes are summarized. Emphasis is given to the role of actor platforms and processes of social learning in multi-level governance regimes. The paper concludes a strong recommendation to implement learning cycles as an integral part of water management.


Pahl-Wostl C, Downing T, Kabat P et al.Kabat P ., 2005. Transition to Adaptive Water Management: The NeWater Project. NeWater Report Series, No. 1.Water Management is facing major challenges due to increasing uncertainties caused by climate and global change and by fast changing socio-economic boundary conditions. Adaptive management is advocated as a timely extension of IWRM to cope with these challenges. Adaptive management aims at increasing the adaptive capacity of river basins based on a profound understanding of key factors that determine a basin vulnerability. More attention has to be devoted to understanding and managing the transition from current management regimes to more adaptive regimes that take into account environmental, technological, economic, institutional and cultural characteristics of river basins. The paper identifies major challenges for research and practice how to achieve this transition. The European project NeWater project is presented as one approach where new scientific methods and practical tools are developed for the participatory assessment and implementation of adaptive water management. The project puts strong emphasis on establishing science-policy dialogues at local, basin and global scales.


Sophocleous M, 2000. From safe yield to sustainable development of water resources: The Kansas experience.Journal of Hydrology, 235(1): 27-43.This paper presents a synthesis of water sustainability issues from the hydrologic perspective. It shows that safe yield is a flawed concept and that sustainability is an idea that is broadly used but perhaps not well understood. In general, the sustainable yield of an aquifer must be considerably less than recharge if adequate amounts of water are to be available to sustain both the quantity and quality of streams, springs, wetlands, and ground-water-dependent ecosystems. To ensure sustainability, it is imperative that water limits be established based on hydrologic principles of mass balance. To establish water-use policies and planning horizons, the transition curves of aquifer systems from ground-water storage depletion to induced recharge of surface water need to be developed. Present-day numerical models are capable of generating such transition curves. Several idealized examples of aquifer systems show how this could be done. Because of the complexity of natural systems and the uncertainties in characterizing them, the current philosophy underlying sustainable management of water resources is based on the interconnected systems approach and on adaptive management. Examples of water-resources management from Kansas illustrate some of these concepts in a real-world setting. Some of the hallmarks of Kansas water management are the formation of local ground-water management districts, the adoption of minimum streamflow standards, the use of modified safe-yield policies in some districts, the implementation of integrated resource planning by the City of Wichita, and the subbasin water-resources management program in potential problem areas. These are all appropriate steps toward sustainable development. The Kansas examples show that local decision-making is the best way to fully account for local variability in water management. However, it is imperative that public education and involvement be encouraged, so that system complexities and constraints are better understood and overly simplistic solutions avoided.


Statistic Bulletin on China Water Activities, 2000-2011. Beijing: China Water & Power Press. (in Chinese)

Tong Jinping, Wang Huimin, 2006. Research on water resources adaptive management in river basin.Soft Science, 20(2): 59-61. (in Chinese)Uncertainties are great handicaps during water resources management in river basin.At present,adaptive management is an effective solution to uncertainties.Firstly,adaptive management is introduced.Then the uncertainty of water resources management is analyzed.At last,a method of investigating water resources management using adaptive management is brought forward,which provides an effective and feasible approach to this problem.

Xia Jun, Liu Chunzhen, Ren Guoyu, 2011. Opportunity and challenge of the climate change impact on the water resource of China.Advances in Earth Science, 26(1): 457-464. (in Chinese)The impact of climate change on water resources security is a challenging issue with widespread concern globally.It is as well the great strategic issue in the national sustainable development of China.Based on a wide review of related research,it is concluded that the research of climate change impact on the water cycle is one of the most exiting research perspectives in the study of relationship of climate change and water science.Due to the serious water resource situation plus climate change influence,the challenge and opportunity of the basic research work in the climate change impact on water resource were given.The climate change and water cycle study is the international forefront in the area of climatology,meteorology and hydrology.The detection and attribution of water cycle components change have become the international challenging problems,as well as the quantitative analysis and prediction of the uncertainties in a hydrological system;the research of water cycle response to climate change is developing from offline hydrologic simulations to coupling climate change with hydrological dynamics;study of the water resources vulnerability has become a key problem to deal with climate change and secure the water resources security.In the circumstances of the climate change,it is necessary to re-examine the hypotheses in traditional hydrological theories,as well as the spatial variability,uncertainty and hydrological extremes in regional hydrological studies.Carrying out the research of climate change impact on water resource and adoption measures is one of the biggest scientific problems of water sciences and water resource in the 21 century.


Xia Jun, Qiu Bing, Li Yuanyuan, 2012. Water resources vulnerability and adaptive management in the Huang, Huai and Hai river basins of China.Water International, 37(5): 523-536.The water-short adjacent basins of the Huang (Yellow), Huai and Hai Rivers in North China contain most of China's farmland. This study evaluates water vulnerability there as a function of sensitivity to climate change, people per unit flow, water use-to-availability ratio, and per capita water use. Three scenarios for 2030 are considered: (1) climate change without socio-economic changes; (2) socio-economic changes without climate change; and (3) both climate and socio-economic changes. Results show increases in the already precarious vulnerability, especially in the Hai river basin.


Xia Jun, Thomas Tanner, Ren Guoyu et al.Ren Guoyu ., 2008. Potential impacts of climate change on water resources in China: Screening for adaptation and management.Advances in Climate Change Research, (4): 215-219. (in Chinese)Based on the project "Screening for Climate Change Adaptation", an adaptation assessment and management framework applied to impacts of climate change on water resources in China was developed. It includes the qualitative description and analysis, semi-quantitative and quantitative analyses of the potential impacts of future climate change on water resources, and the assessment of adaptation options. According to different climatic regions and different problems on water resources, four case studies have been processed in the projects. By setting up different objectives and problems, a comprehensive research on climate change adaptation management is demonstrated. The principles, framework and methodology of assessing climate change impacts and adaptation are developed. This research provides an effective framework tool and methodology for the planning and risk management of water resources under impacts of future climate change.

Xia Jun, Zuo Qiting, Shao Mincheng, 2003. Sustainable Utilization of Water Resources in Bosten Lake: Theory, Method and Practice. Beijing: Science Press. (in Chinese)