Upper Yangtze: Integrated Water Management & Climate Adaptation

By Christian Willi, Rao Fu, Li Fan, Dr. Liyan Wang, Dr. Jijun Xu, Dr. Deng Pan 16 August, 2018

Sino-Swiss experts introduce their Jinsha basin project

The joint project aims to enhance water management & climate adaptation for the JRB; 1st phase finalised in 2018
7 research areas include: extreme events, climate change scenarios & impact assessments, runoff prediction & more
Lessons learnt can help China's river basin commissions

The Yangtze River Basin is the socio-economic powerhouse of China. The upper reach of the Yangtze River is called Jinsha River. In the last 2-3 decades, the Jinsha River Basin (JRB) has experienced warmer temperatures and increasing extreme events such as flood and drought, causing significant economic loss. At the same time, different sectors and stakeholders, from industry, residential areas, hydropower, agriculture, ecosystems to tourism, are all very sensitive to water issues and climate change.

Sino Swiss Report Cover

To improve the overall water resource management in the JRB and to adapt successfully to climate change and socio-economic development, in 2014, China and Switzerland jointly proposed a cooperation project “Jinsha River Basin Integrated Water Resources and Risk Management under Climate Change ” (referred to as “JRB Project”).

The first phase of this Sino-Swiss cooperation project, finalised in 2018, is to develop methods, instruments and models to enhance the water management practices for the JRB and to enable adaptation strategies and measures to climate and socio-economic change. This article shares some of the key findings from the final project report.

JRB project area & website (2)

A holistic, multidisciplinary and data-driven approach: 7 research areas

The JRB project combines advanced multidisciplinary studies and technologies from hydrology, water resources, meteorology, climate change etc., with observation and measurements, numerical simulation and modern GIS technology, following holistic processes of “data collection – model building – trend analysis – impact analysis – adaptation measures”. Under this holistic framework, Chinese and Swiss experts jointly carried out integrated research activities in the following areas:

1.  Historical Extreme Events

The newly developed standardised event registration platform proved to be beneficial to record, visualise and analyse heterogeneous event data sets. It allows data input by different stakeholders using various archives and indicating the uncertainties of each dataset.

2.  Analysis of Hydro-Meteorological Characteristics

The hydro-meteorological data analysis tool “HydroAnalysis R-package”, which was specifically developed for this study, allows analysis of basic statistic parameters including trends.

3.  Glacier, Snow Cover and Snow Melt Monitoring

The glacier terrestrial observation station established in this project provides basic data support for understanding the impact of climate change on glacier melting and runoff. For the first time, glacier changes on Yulong Snow Mountain are visualised by real-time monitoring.

4.  Predict Runoff, Prevent Flooding

A hydro-meteorological forecasting model (HMFM) suitable for JRB with integrated large reservoirs has been developed, which allows hydrological forecasting for more than fifty locations all over the JRB based on weather predictions on three time-scales.

Collage (2)

5.  Climate Change Scenarios and Impact Assessment

Based on the scenarios RCP 4.5 and 8.5 for future greenhouse gas emissions and their uncertainties, as well as 36 CMIP5 general circulation models (GCMs), this project established 8 climate change scenarios for the expected daily temperature and precipitation in the near future (2021-2050) and 16 scenarios for the far future (2070-2099). Based on these projections, the impact on water supply and demand, river discharge, water-related extreme events as well as on sectors like hydropower, agriculture (e.g. crop suitability) and aquatic ecosystems were analysed.

6.  Adaptation Strategies and Measures

The project identified key challenges in implementing long-term climate change adaptation strategy, such as definition of the objectives of adaptation, coordination between different sectors and the corresponding institutions at various levels, dealing with uncertainties and capacity building. The project also did two case studies: one on managing water supply and demand in Lijiang City by using the Water Evaluation and Planning Model (WEAP), and the other on measures to mitigate extreme weather risks in Yibin City.

7.  Knowledge Management

An international platform for knowledge and expertise exchange on water resources management and climate change adaptation was built. A project brochure (in Chinese) can be downloaded for a glance of project highlight. More interactive information can be accessed here.

holistic approach1

Lessons learned for future work

This project has not only created a solid fundament of research results and powerful and sound tools to enhance the water management practices for JRB, but also enhanced cooperation skills and mutual trust among Chinese and Swiss experts. It paved the way for substantial implementation work in the future.

All these will contribute to practical management needs of Changjiang Water Resources Commission

All these will contribute to practical management needs of Changjiang Water Resources Commission (CWRC)*, and also allow sufficient preparation of future implementation of IWRM in JRB and in other river basins in China.

Impact on technical level resulting from Phase 1 are analysed and detailed in the project report. Below are some of the key learnings from this project:

  • Data access and sharing was of crucial importance for the project. Trustful relationships had to be built and could finally help to solve data issues;
  • robust knowledge base is the key to implement optimised adaptation measures to climate change. With many stakeholders involved, it proved to be a necessary precondition to establish specific web-based data platforms to facilitate the data-exchange and gain a knowledge about the uncertainties;
  • The climate change impact on water resources was and is still a new topic for the public in China. The awareness raising of climate change impacts will remain a continuous process throughout the project implementation with stakeholders and decision-makers;
  • Uncertainties about climate change impacts and other future developments have been addressed in the research work of the project, and they will remain a challenging issue when trying to influence decision-making and shaping policies and strategies; and
  • The planning periods in China (5 to 15 years) may create conflicts with the long-term impacts of climate change and the long-life span of water infrastructures. The decision to consider two future time periods (near future 2021-2050, far future 2070-2099) in the project was the result of intense discussions in the project team and with stakeholders, to ensure the scientific value but also the practical use of the project results.

To find out more what the tools and procedures used in this project, and the comprehensive research findings and publications, please visit the project website and read the full project report.


 *Editor note: Changjiang also known as Yangtze

Further Reading

  • Audit! Yangtze River Economic Belt – China’s first ever basin-wide environmental audit on the Yangtze River Economic Belt is an unprecedented step towards balancing economy & environment. China Water Risk’s Woody Chan shares the good and not so good findings
  • 3 Things You Need To Know About Hunan – Hunan connects provinces from the Yangtze’s upper to lower reaches – an important position. Check out 3 key things to know about Hunan as China develops the Yangtze River Economic Belt according to China Water Risk’s CT Low
  • Sharing Rivers: The Lancang-Mekong Case – Using the emergency water release by China to help downstream countries in the Lancang-Mekong River Basin as an example, Tsinghua University’s Prof. Zhao Jianshi explores the benefits of cooperation & the importance of China
  • China’s Renewable Energy Quotas – China is releasing its first ever renewable energy quotas along with Renewable Energy Power Certificates to improve trading; see what these mean for provinces & renewable enterprises with China Water Risk’s Yuanchao Xu
  • Financing Green Infrastructure In The GBA: Key Takeaways – The Greater Bay Area accounts for 12% of China’s GDP but climate change means this is at risk. How can green finance help? China Water Risk’s Dharisha Mirando shares key takeaways from the HKUST conference
  • Water-nomics: Trade-offs Along The Yangtze – With significant economic, water use and pollution disparities along the Yangtze River, China Water Risk & the Foreign Economic Cooperation Office of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, publish a joint brief to explore strategies to find the right development mix. Check out some of the key findings in this review
  • Yangtze Flows: Pollution & Heavy Metals: Areas along the Yangtze River dominate Chinese production but at what cost? With Grade V water in its tributaries, rapid growth in upstream wastewater plus concerns over a disproportionately large share of the nation’s heavy metals discharge, can the Yangtze River Economic Belt still flourish? CWR’s Hu takes a closer look
  • New Tech & Policy For Climate Resilience: 3 Takeaways – Experts say new tech needs policy support at an interdisciplinary forum for climate resilient urban water systems, hosted by the Centre for Water Technology & Policy of the University of Hong Kong. Check out three key takeaways from China Water Risk’s Chien Tat Low and Woody Chan
  • China’s Green Planning For The World Starts With Infrastructure – China can exert greater external influence through infrastructure development but Professor Asit K Biswas and Kris Hartley from the Lee Kuan Yew School for Public Policy caution against it citing financial and environmental risks. See more

Christian Willi
Author: Christian Willi
Mr. Christian WILLI, Member of Management Board Safety and Security at EBP Schweiz AG and head of the group of Natural Hazards. He holds a Master in forest engineering with specialization in natural hazards at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and has been dealing with safety issues in its fields for more than 11 years. He is specialized in probabilistic risk analysis as well as in the participative risk analysis supported by the IT-tool RiskPlan and in the moderation of risk dialogues. He is an expert in the integral risk management particularly the integral flood risk management. He is the deputy project manager of JRB project.
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Rao Fu
Author: Rao Fu
Ms. FU Rao, project manager at EBP Schweiz AG. She holds a Master in environmental engineering of Federal Institute of Technology Zurich with specialization in water resources management, urban water management and environmental planning. In Switzerland, she was involved in various projects related to flood risk management, pollution control, ecological rehabilitation and water resources management during the last 6 years. She is the expert for water resources management and fish ecology of JRB project.
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Li Fan
Author: Li Fan
Mrs FAN Li, Senior Environmental Consultant of EBP Hong Kong Ltd. She holds a Master Degree in Environmental Technology from Imperial College London. She’s specialised in Environmental, Health, Safety and Social Due Diligence Assessment, contaminated site management (soil and groundwater remediation assessment). She is a certified Carbon Auditor Professional (CAP) and certified member of Environmental Management Association of Hong Kong.
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Dr. Liyan Wang
Author: Dr. Liyan Wang
Dr. Liyan WANG, Senior Advisor for Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) China Office. She joined SDC in 2009, and has taken thematic responsibility for SDC to develop its bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation in China. She has taken leading role in the design and operation management of major SDC programmes in China in clean air and water domain, including water resources management, risk management, groundwater over-pumping management and rehabilitation, etc. Dr. WANG has years working experiences in energy and environment field. She has Ph.D degree in hydraulic transmission and control.
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Dr. Jijun Xu
Author: Dr. Jijun Xu
Dr. XU Jijun is the division chief of Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute. He received a Ph.D. degree in hydrology and water resources from Tsinghua University in 2007. He is the member of Global Water Partnership China, the member of Water Resources Committee of Chinese Hydraulic Engineering Society, the executive director of Water Resources System Engineering Branch of Systems Engineering Society of China, and also the deputy director of Hubei Provincial Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Eco-Environmental Science. Dr. XU’s research focuses on hydrological model and its application, drought and flood analysis, water resources management policy analysis. Dr. XU is hosting or investigating several national key research projects, such as the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China, Sino-Swiss Cooperation Project, International Science and Technology Cooperation Program of China, Special Program in Public Welfare of the Ministry of Water Resources and so on.
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Dr. Deng Pan
Author: Dr. Deng Pan
Dr. PAN Deng is the senior engineer of Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute. She obtained a Ph.D. degree in Hydrology and Water Resources from China Agricultural University in 2011. Her Research focuses on the agricultural water resource utilization and drought risk management. Dr. PAN has played a key role in and contributed to several national key research projects, such as the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Sino-Swiss Cooperation Project, International Science and Technology Cooperation Program of China.
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