GWP China Yellow River Basin Promotes Heihe River Development in Northern China

May 27 to June 1, 2024, Global Water Partnership China Yellow River Basin organized an expert team to visit Heihe River(Black River) for a comprehensive evaluation on water efficiency development in the Heihe River Basin.

Heihe River(Black River) is a major river system of northern China. It flows approximately 928 km from its headwaters the Qilian Mountains into the endorheic Ejin Basin in the Gobi Desert, crossing Qinghai, Gansu and Inner Mongolia. It forms one of the largest inland deltas in the world and covers 142,900 km2 of drainage basin in parts of the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Inner Mongolia.

It rises as the Heishui (black water) on the north slopes of the Qilian Mountains, flowing north then northwest past Zhangye, picking up several tributaries from the south. The water is used to irrigate fields along its valley. It then turns north-northeast, flowing out into the desert, and becoming a losing stream as its water sinks into the surrounding earth. This quality is what gives the river its name, as it significantly lessens the flow and even causes it to dry up in some years. From the turn, it runs in that direction onto a vast alluvial plain formed by the river's sediment deposits. This part of the river is also known as the Etsin Gol or Etsin River. At Ximiao, the river splits into two ephemeral distributaries called the Dong He (east river) and the Xi He (west river), draining into the Juyan Lake Basin. The Dong empties into a lake called Sogo Nur, while the Xi river empties into a seasonal basin called the Gaxun Nur.

                                                            Team in Yingke Irrigation Area

Led by Su Maolin, Chair of GWP China Yellow River Basin, the group conducted a survey on the development and utilization of Heihe River resources and water-saving potential. Dong Zengchuan, former Vice President of Hohai University, Liu Handong, former Vice President of North China University of Water Resources and Electric Power, Li Xiaoqiang, Director of the Heihe River Basin Management Bureau of the Yellow River Water Resources Commission, Si Quan, Deputy Director of the International Cooperation and Technology Bureau of the Yellow River Water Resources Commission, and Tian Yuqing, Coordinator of GWP China Yellow River Basin participated in the survey.

The research team visited Yingke Irrigation District and rural water plants in the middle reaches of Ganzhou District, Zhengyi Gorge hydrological section, downstream Dadun Gate water gate, Heihe River and Langxinshan Water Conservancy Hub, Juyanhai Wetland, and other places to inspect. They also had discussions and exchanges with the Heihe River Basin Management Bureau and the Zhangye Municipal Government to gain a detailed understanding of the development and utilization of water resources in the Heihe River Basin, the allocation and scheduling of water resources, the implementation of water-saving measures in the middle reaches, and the ecological water use and restoration status in the downstream. They proposed suggestions and measures to promote the conservation and intensive use of water resources in the basin, as well as to promote ecological protection and high-quality development in the basin.

Through on-site research, the research team believes that the Heihe River has not only opened the precedent for unified regulation of land river water volume in China, but also opened the precedent for ecological basin management in China. For over 20 years, the Heihe River Basin Management Bureau has united all parties in the basin, overcame difficulties, and carefully coordinated water use through measures such as "full line closure, centralized discharge," "restricted water diversion," and "flood control." It has fully coordinated upstream and downstream, left and right banks, domestic production, and ecological water use; Adhering to unity and water management in various regions along the river not only meets the national requirements for ecological construction in the entire basin, but also promotes the economic and social development of the basin, effectively ensuring water supply security, food security, ecological security, and national defense security, and producing huge comprehensive benefits.

At present, it is stepping into a new phase of achieving high-quality leapfrog development, which has put forward higher requirements for the coordinated development of ecology, economy, and society in the Heihe River Basin. In the future, we should base ourselves on reality, focus on the long-term, and make reasonable arrangements. We should adhere to forward-looking thinking, global planning, and focused promotion, and carry out more scientific ecological construction, water resource optimization, and comprehensive water resource management in the basin. Strengthen top-level design, basic research and application research on water conservancy hub engineering scheduling, and enhance digital empowerment to fully promote ecological protection and high-quality development in the Heihe River Basin.