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Hydrological Modeling of the inland Black River Watershed, Northwestern China for Water Resources Management

Congress: 2008
Author(s): Chansheng He, Thomas E. Croley, and Qi Feng
Chansheng He Department of Geography Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008-5424, U.S.A. Phone: +001 269 387-3425 (office); Fax: +001 269 387-3442 Email: Thomas E. Croley II Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory 2205 Commonwealth Blvd. Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105-2945, U.S.A. Phone: +001 734 741 2238 (office); Fax: +001 734 741 2055 Email: Qi Feng Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute The Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, P.R. China, Email:

Keyword(s): hydrologic modeling; distributed large basin runoff model (DLBRM); Black River in Northwestern China; and water shortage.
AbstractThe Black River (or Heihe in Chinese) is the second largest inland river in China, with a drainage area of 128,000 km2. From its headwaters to the middle and lower reaches, glacial, agricultural oasis, and desert make up 21.9, 43.6, and 34.5 percent of the watershed respectively. Annual precipitation is 250—500 mm in the glacial and mountain areas to 55—200 mm in the oasis of the middle reaches and eventually to 40 mm in the lower reaches. While glacial melt contributes about 10 percent of the surface runoff in the basin, agricultural irrigation water supply in the oasis comes mainly from groundwater withdrawals. In recent years, the shrinking glacial area in the upper reaches of the watershed and intensified agricultural irrigation in the middle reaches have depleted the river flow to the lower reach, drying up the lower rich river channels most of the time, shrinking several lakes, and altering the vegetation types in the oasis downstream. To protect the downstream oasis and control desert expansion, the State Council has implemented water allocation guidelines between the middle and lower reaches of the watershed. However, it is uncertain if the water allocation guidelines would be sufficient to sustain the functions and services of the downstream ecosystem. To this end, we are collaborating with The Chinese Academy of Sciences Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute to understand water movement among the glacial, oasis, and desert areas in the Black River Watershed through field inventory and a modeling approach. This paper describes the preliminary work of adapting the US Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations’s Distributed Large Basin Runoff Model (DLBRM) for understanding water movement mechanism between glacial melt, precipitation, groundwater, streamflow, and evapotranspiration in this large inland river watershed. Agricultural management scenarios are explored for assessing the impacts of water shortage on the hydrology and agricultural production in the watershed.
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