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Journal of Arid Land  2023, Vol. 15 Issue (9): 1037-1051    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-023-0067-7
Research article     
Evolution of groundwater recharge-discharge balance in the Turpan Basin of China during 1959-2021
QIN Guoqiang, WU Bin*(), DONG Xinguang, DU Mingliang, WANG Bo
College of Hydraulic and Civil Engineering, Xinjiang Agricultural University, Urumqi 830052, China
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Groundwater overexploitation is a serious problem in the Turpan Basin, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, causing groundwater level declines and ecological and environmental problems such as the desiccation of karez wells and the shrinkage of lakes. Based on historical groundwater data and field survey data from 1959 to 2021, we comprehensively studied the evolution of groundwater recharge and discharge terms in the Turpan Basin using the groundwater equilibrium method, mathematical statistics, and GIS spatial analysis. The reasons for groundwater overexploitation were also discussed. The results indicated that groundwater recharge increased from 14.58×108 m3 in 1959 to 15.69×108 m3 in 1980, then continued to decrease to 6.77×108 m3 in 2021. Groundwater discharge increased from 14.49×108 m3 in 1959 to 16.02×108 m3 in 1989, while continued to decrease to 9.97×108 m3 in 2021. Since 1980, groundwater recharge-discharge balance has been broken, the decrease rate of groundwater recharge exceeded that of groundwater discharge and groundwater recharge was always lower than groundwater discharge, showing in a negative equilibrium, which caused the continuous decrease in groundwater level in the Turpan Basin. From 1980 to 2002, groundwater overexploitation increased rapidly, peaking from 2003 to 2011 with an average overexploitation rate of 4.79×108 m3/a; then, it slowed slightly from 2012 to 2021, and the cumulative groundwater overexploitation was 99.21×108 m3 during 1980-2021. This research can provide a scientific foundation for the restoration and sustainable use of groundwater in the overexploited areas of the Turpan Basin.

Key wordsgroundwater overexploitation      groundwater recharge      groundwater discharge      climate change      human activities      Turpan Basin     
Received: 20 July 2023      Published: 30 September 2023
Corresponding Authors: * WU Bin (E-mail:
Cite this article:

QIN Guoqiang, WU Bin, DONG Xinguang, DU Mingliang, WANG Bo. Evolution of groundwater recharge-discharge balance in the Turpan Basin of China during 1959-2021. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(9): 1037-1051.

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Fig. 1 Overview of the Turpan Basin and the location of the study area. DEM, digital elevation model.
Fig. 2 Evolution of seven groundwater recharge terms in the Turpan Basin during 1959-2021. QMFLIR, mountain front's lateral infiltration recharge; QLRFR, latent river flow recharge; QRIR, river infiltration recharge; QCLR, canal leakage recharge; QFIR, field infiltration recharge; QRPSR, reservoir and pond seepage recharge; QRETURN, recharge terms of groundwater transformation.
Year Groundwater recharge (×108 m3/a) Groundwater discharge (×108 m3/a)
1959 1.62 0.69 3.67 2.11 0.77 0.02 5.70 14.58 5.16 0.71 5.78 0.01 2.83 0.00 14.49
1989 1.66 0.55 3.04 2.38 1.12 0.09 6.37 15.20 3.72 0.57 3.70 4.88 2.68 0.47 16.02
2003 1.60 0.40 2.47 1.80 0.95 0.14 4.50 11.86 3.30 0.35 2.70 6.40 1.96 0.26 14.97
2011 1.62 0.27 2.25 1.51 0.67 0.14 3.21 9.66 2.37 0.28 1.35 8.28 1.57 0.09 13.95
2021 1.63 0.13 2.08 1.02 0.35 0.07 1.48 6.77 1.47 0.00 0.91 6.71 0.88 0.00 9.97
Table 1 Groundwater recharge and discharge data in the Turpan Basin in the five periods of 1959, 1989, 2003, 2011, and 2021
Fig. 3 Evolution of the number of karez wells and the amount of karez well outflow (QK) in the Turpan Basin during 1959-2021
Fig. 4 Evolution of the number of mechanical wells and the amount of mechanical well extraction (QMW) in the Turpan Basin during 1959-2021
Fig. 5 Evolution of groundwater discharge terms in the Turpan Basin during 1959-2021. QAW, artesian well outflow; QS, spring overflow; QR, river discharge; QE; evapotranspiration.
Fig. 6 Evolution of groundwater recharge and discharge in the Turpan Basin during 1959-2021
Period End of period Average
(×108 m3/a)
Cumulative overexploitation
(×108 m3)
(×108 m3/a)
(×108 m3/a)
(×108 m3/a)
1959 14.58 14.49 - - -
1960-1970 15.56 15.22 - - -
1970-1980 15.69 15.66 - - -
1980-1989 15.20 16.02 0.82 0.36 3.21
1989-2003 11.86 14.97 3.11 1.40 19.57
2003-2011 9.66 13.95 4.29 4.79 38.35
2011-2021 6.77 9.97 3.20 4.23 38.08
Total 99.21
Table 2 Calculation of groundwater overexploitation in the Turpan Basin during 1959-2021
Fig. 7 Spatial distribution of cumulative groundwater level decline in the Turpan Basin during 1980-2021. (a), 1980-1989; (b), 1989-2003; (c), 2003-2011; (d), 2011-2021.
Period Average annual groundwater storage variables (×108 m3/a) Cumulative groundwater storage variables (×108 m3)
1980-1989 0.43 3.90
1989-2003 1.53 21.40
2003-2011 4.81 38.54
2011-2021 3.82 38.23
Sum 2.49 102.10
Table 3 Groundwater storage variables in the Turpan Basin during 1980-2021
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