Articles | Volume 21, issue 7
Research article
18 Jul 2017
Research article |  | 18 Jul 2017

Socio-hydrological perspectives of the co-evolution of humans and groundwater in Cangzhou, North China Plain

Songjun Han, Fuqiang Tian, Ye Liu, and Xianhui Duan

Abstract. This paper presents a historical analysis from socio-hydrological perspectives of the coupled human–groundwater system of the Cangzhou region in the North China Plain (NCP). The history of the pendulum swing for water allocation between the economic development and aquifer environmental health of the system is divided into five eras (i.e., natural, exploitation, degradation and restoration, drought-triggered deterioration, and returning to equilibrium). The system's evolution was interpreted using the Taiji–Tire model. Over-exploitation was considered as the main cause of aquifer depletion, and the groundwater utilization pattern was affected by the varying groundwater table. The aquifer depletion enhanced community sensitivity toward environmental issues, and upgraded the social productive force for restoration. The evolution of the system was substantially impacted by two droughts. The drought in 1965 induced the system from natural conditions to groundwater exploiting. The drought from 1997 to 2002 resulted in a surge in further groundwater abstraction and dramatic aquifer deterioration, and community sensitivity increased rapidly and induced the social productive force to a tipping point. From then on, the system returns to equilibrium through new policies and water-saving technologies. Along with the establishment of a strict water resource management strategy and the launch of the South-to-North Water Diversion Project, further restoration of groundwater environment was implemented. However, a comprehensive and coordinated drought management plan should be devised to avoid irreversible change in the system.

Short summary
The history of the co-evolution of the coupled human–groundwater system in Cangzhou (a region with the most serious depression cone in the North China Plain) is analyzed with a particular focus on how the groundwater crisis unfolded and how people attempted to settle the crisis. The evolution of the system was substantially impacted by two droughts. Further restoration of groundwater environment could be anticipated, but the occurrence of drought still remains an undetermined external forcing.