An Urban Sociohydrologic Model for Exploration of Beijing's Water Sustainability Challenges and Solution Spaces

Bin Li, Murugesu Sivapalan, Xinyi Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mismatch between water demand and water availability in many megacities poses vexing water management challenges. Managers are forced to take remedial efforts to address these challenges, often with a heavy focus on infrastructure solutions such as building reservoirs or interbasin transfers to meet demand, which may in fact exacerbate the problem through unintended consequences that arise from neglect of social, economic, and environmental factors. Such a situation awaits Beijing, China, which faces major water management challenges in spite of the addition of a large interbasin transfer to meet increasing demand. In this study, a sociohydrologic model is developed for investigating Beijing's future water sustainability from a holistic and dynamic perspective. Using the model, we first explore the sociohydrologic mechanisms that contributed to Beijing's worsening water situation during 1988–2014. We then use the model to assess possible future impacts of the South to North Water Diversion Project on Beijing's water supply prospects for the 2015–2035 period. Alternative futures are explored by combining three different sustainable management strategies. The model results show that the source of Beijing's dominant water pressure experienced a transformation from productive to domestic water use over the last 30 years. They also indicate that the transfer water via South to North Water Diversion Project cannot fundamentally reverse Beijing's water shortage in the long term and that demand-oriented management measures will be required for alleviating the city's water stress. These findings provide guidance not only for Beijing's water management but also for other less developed cities around the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5918-5940
Number of pages23
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2019


  • modeling
  • sociohydrology
  • urban hydrology
  • water sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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