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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (6): 581-598    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0067-4
Research article     
Impacts of climate change and human activities on water resources in the Ebinur Lake Basin, Northwest China
WANG Yuejian1,2, GU Xinchen3,4, YANG Guang3,4,*(), YAO Junqiang5,*(), LIAO Na1,2
1Department of Geography, College of Science, Shihezi University, Shihezi 832000, China
2Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps Key Laboratory of Oasis Town and Mountain-Basin System Ecology, Shihezi 832000, China
3College of Water and Architectural Engineering, Shihezi University, Shihezi 832000, China
4Xinjiang Production & Construction Group Key Laboratory of Modern Water-Saving Irrigation, Shihezi 832000, China
5Institute of Desert Meteorology, China Meteorological Administration, Urumqi 830002, China
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Changing climatic conditions and extensive human activities have influenced the global water cycle. In recent years, significant changes in climate and land use have degraded the watershed ecosystem of the Ebinur Lake Basin in Xinjiang, Northwest China. In this paper, variations of runoff, temperature, precipitation, reference evapotranspiration, lake area, socio-economic water usage, groundwater level and water quality in the Ebinur Lake Basin from 1961 to 2015 were systematically analyzed by the Mann-Kendall test methods (M-K) mutation test, the cumulative levelling method, the climate-sensitive method and land-use change index. In addition, we evaluated the effects of human activities on land use change and water quality. The results reveal that there was a significant increase in temperature and precipitation from 1961 to 2015, despite a decrease in reference evapotranspiration. The Wenquan station was not significantly affected by human activities as it is situated at a higher altitude. Runoff at this station increased significantly with climate warming. In contrast, runoff at the Jinghe station was severely affected by numerous human activities. Runoff decreased without obvious fluctuations. The contributions of climate change to runoff variation at the Jinghe and Wenquan stations were 46.87% and 58.94%, respectively; and the contributions of human activities were 53.13% and 41.06%, respectively. Land-use patterns in the basin have changed significantly between 1990 and 2015: urban and rural constructed lands, saline-alkali land, bare land, cultivated land, and forest land have expanded, while areas under grassland, lake, ice/snow and river/channel have declined. Human activities have dramatically intensified land degradation and desertification. From 1961 to 2015, both the inflow into the Ebinur Lake and the area of the lake have declined year by year; groundwater levels have dropped significantly, and the water quality has deteriorated during the study period. In the oasis irrigation area below the runoff pass, human activities mainly influenced the utilization mode and quantity of water resources. Changes in the hydrology and quantity of water resources were driven primarily by the continuous expansion of cultivated land and oasis, as well as the growth of population and the construction of hydraulic engineering projects. After 2015, the effects of some ecological protection projects were observed. However, there was no obvious sign of ecological improvement in the basin, and some environmental problems continue to persist. On this basis, this study recommends that the expansion of oasis should be limited according to the carrying capacity of the local water bodies. Moreover, in order to ensure the ecological security of the basin, it is necessary to determine the optimal oasis area for sustainable development and improve the efficiency of water resources exploitation and utilization.

Key wordsclimate change      human activities      runoff      water resources      groundwater level      climate-sensitive method      Ebinur Lake Basin     
Received: 11 July 2020      Published: 10 June 2021
Corresponding Authors:
About author: YAO Junqiang (E-mail:
YANG Guang (E-mail:;
Cite this article:

WANG Yuejian, GU Xinchen, YANG Guang, YAO Junqiang, LIAO Na. Impacts of climate change and human activities on water resources in the Ebinur Lake Basin, Northwest China. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(6): 581-598.

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Fig. 1 Overview of the Ebinur Lake Basin. DEM, digital elevation model.
Fig. 2 Temperature (a) and precipitation (b) at the four hydrological stations in the Ebinur Lake Basin from 1961 to 2015
Fig. 3 Reference evapotranspiration (ET0) at the three hydrological stations in the Ebinur Lake Basin from 1961 to 2015
Fig. 4 Land-use change in the Ebinur Lake Basin from 1990 to 2015. (a), 1990; (b), 2000; (c), 2005; (d), 2010; (e), 2015.
Fig. 5 Cumulative anomaly (a and c) and Mann-Kendall (M-K) mutation test analysis (b and d) of annual runoff at the Jinghe station (a and b) and Wenquan station (c and d) during 1961-2015. UFK represents a standard normal distribution. UBK= -UFK. The green lines represent a 95% confidence interval.
Station ΔR(mm) ∂R/∂P ΔP(mm) ∂R/∂ET0 ΔPET(mm) ΔQclimate (mm) Contribution (%)
Jinghe Pass 0.3 0.004 21.2 -0.002 -27.9 0.1406 46.87
Wenquan 5.4 0.044 66.5 -0.020 -40.0 3.0060 58.94
Table 1 Impacts of climate change and human activities on runoff at the Jinghe and Wenquan stations
Fig. 6 Changes in the area of the Ebinur Lake from 1950 to 2019
Fig. 7 Amount of water entering the lake (a) annually and (b) monthly during the period 1989-2019
Fig. 8 Population and water diversion volume during 1961-2019 (a) and agricultural water use and irrigation area during 1980-2019 (b) in the Ebinur Lake Basin
Fig. 9 Surface water diversion and groundwater exploitation during 2005-2019 (a) and groundwater level of three observation wells during 1990-2019 (b) in the Ebinur Lake Basin. Monitor-1, observation groundwater well was located at 200 m north of the Water Conservancy Bureau of Bortala Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture; Monitor-2, observation groundwater well was located in the state passenger transport company; Monitor-3, observation groundwater well was located in Qingdeli Township.
Fig. 10 Water salinity (a) and water hardness (b) at the four hydrological stations in the Ebinur Lake Basin during 1999-2019. It should be noted that due to the lack of corresponding data at the Ala Pass station from 2016 to 2019, only the water hardness values of 1999-2015 were analyzed for this station.
Fig. 11 Salinity and lake area (a) and phosphorus level (b) of the Ebinur Lake from 2002 to 2018. The standard classes of total phosphorus are referenced from the State Environmental Protection Administration and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China (2002).
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