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In the Focus

"Advanced Science and Technology at SUSTech" Series Report - Part 10 Research On Hydrology and Water Resources: Promoting Green Development and Safeguarding Ecological Civilization

Dec 4, 2017 Special Report

Water resources play a key role in the sustainable development of the global economy and society. The problem of water shortage in our country is particularly serious. In 2011, The Central Government’s No. 1 Document raised water security to the strategic level of national security. In 2015, the State Council formally released The Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Water Pollution (referred to as "Ten Articles on Water" for short), requiring to control the total amount of water used, raise the efficiency of water used and scientifically protect water resources. Therefore, scientifically evaluating the regional water resources under the natural-economic complex system and revealing the interaction between water and social economy under the condition of strong human activities, are of great significance and practical value for realizing the efficient utilization of water resources, and ensuring food security, sustainable economic development and ecological security in our country.

Prof. Junguo Liu from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering of Southern University of Science and Technology has been engaged in the research on hydrology & water resources and ecosystem process models for many years. He has published over 100 papers in Nature, Science, PNAS, Nature Communications and other international journals with over 3,400 citations.

Paying Attention to "Blue and Green Water" to Ensure Water Security

Blue water refers to the water stored in rivers and lakes, i.e. the runoff water resources; green water refers to the water resources stored in the soil. Traditional water resource assessments consider only runoff water resources, i.e blue water resources, and are incapable of including all effective water resources including both blue and green water and their utilization in the natural - economic complex system. Along with the social and economic development, profound changes have taken place in the interaction between mankind and water resources. The evaluation of water resources under the natural and economic complex system has become the focal point and popular area of hydrology and water resources research. Water resources assessments are challenging under the natural-economic complex system due to the incomplete consideration of the interaction between water and social economic systems. In recent years, domestic and foreign scholars have made some progress in the theory, method and application of water resources under the dual driving forcing of "nature-society". Nevertheless, relevant basic research is still very weak in the area of social hydrology and the interaction between water and social systems.

The research goal of Prof. Liu's team is to meet the major needs of national and regional water security and clarify the temporal and spatial distribution and mechanism of blue and green water in the context of strong human activities. It can not only serve the needs of developing and perfecting the theory and methodology of water resource assessment under the natural-economic complex system, but also provide a scientific basis for the region to ease its water shortage, achieve efficient utilization of water resources and implement the most strict water resource management. Based on the scientific issue of "temporal and spatial pattern of blue and green water under strong human activities", the study focuses on the main line of "resource endowment - exploitation and utilization - environmental impact - mechanism - coping strategy" and carries out the research on the evaluation theory and method of water resources under the natural-economic complex system. For applying their research achievement, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region is selected as a case study area which has significant water shortage problems and the international river basins along the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the surrounding areas that are sensitive to global changes. The research of Prof Liu’s group will play a supporting role in safeguarding water security in our country and in serving international negotiations on cross-border rivers.

Finding Out Our Resources and Focusing on the Mechanisms to Solve the Water and Environment Problems in a Scientific Way

The purpose of the study on "resource endowment" is to find out the volume of water resources in our country, assess the spatial and temporal distribution features of blue and green water resources and focus on the scientific problem of mechanisms of blue and green water under high-intensity human activities. "Exploitation and Utilization" and "Environmental Impact" further highlight the impact of human activities on the water system and reveal the impact of water use on the "quantity" and "quality" of the river; "Mechanism" is the difficult part of the study, which is to clarify the relationships of water resources among different sectors and different regions through the innovation in blue-green water conversion theory and method. "Coping Strategy" is the "outlet" of the study, aiming to clarify the coping strategies and efficient usage of water resources in the regions with a shortage of water resources. Meanwhile, the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area, which has a striking water scarcity problem, has provided an ideal place for the research on water resources under the natural-economic complex system, and also offered an opportunity for the research to achieve innovative results.

Prof. Junguo Liu established the Laboratory on Water Security and Global Change in 2016 with the goal of providing scientific understanding and solutions to water and environment issues in China and other parts of the world so as to enhance the water and environmental security of mankind and ecosystems. The research methods include mathematical models, remote sensing, field observation and in situ experiments, laboratory analysis and mechanism experiments, etc. The research dimensions include global, regional, national, river basin and city scales. The study will play a major scientific supportive role in carrying out the most stringent water resource management system, implementing the concept of green development, and developing ecological civilization.

Establishing an Eco-Hydrological Model to Serve Global Research on Water Resources

Prof. Junguo Liu's research team focuses not only on water issues in China, but also pays great attention to the global research on water resources. They have done a lot of research on the global spatial and temporal evolution of blue and green water resources, the nitrogen cycle and balance associated with the water cycle, ecosystem degradation and restoration, and so on. They have developed a large-scale ecosystem process model based on a high spatial resolution simulation, clarified the temporal and spatial evolution law of water shortage in China and the whole world, and found out the "green" approach to water security. On the basis of their solid previous research, Prof. Junguo Liu’s team continues to develop a water-economy-environment coupling model, innovate the water resource research methods, enrich and develop the water resource assessment method in the natural-economic complex system, so as to answer the scientific question of “the temporal and spatial pattern of blue and green water under strong human activities” from the scientific perspective, and offer theoretical basis and technical support for the efficient use of regional water resources and the implementation of the most stringent water resource management from the application perspective. The theoretical methods developed by his team will apply to not only the case areas in our country, but also the water resources assessment of other countries under the natural-economic complex system.

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