Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 331–351 | Cite as

Water resources planning and management based on system dynamics: a case study of Yulin city

  • Xiao-jun WangEmail author
  • Jian-yun Zhang
  • Jiu-fu Liu
  • Guo-qing Wang
  • Rui-min He
  • Amgad Elmahdi
  • Sondoss Elsawah


Water security is an integral aspect of the socio-economic development in China. Nevertheless, water resources are under persistent pressures because of the growing population, heavy irrigation, climate change effects and short-term policies. Traditional management approaches narrowly focus on increasing supply and reducing demand without considering the complex interactions and feedback loops that govern water resource behaviour. Whereas these approaches may provide quick fix solutions, they often lead to unanticipated, sometimes catastrophic, delayed outcomes. Therefore, water management needs to take a holistic approach that caters to the interdependent physical (e.g. water inflows, outflows) and behavioural (e.g. decision rules, perceptions) processes in the system. Unlike reductionist approaches, System Dynamics (SD) takes a system-level view for modelling and analysing the complex structure (cause–effect relationships, feedback loops, delays) that generates the systemic behaviour. Simulating the SD model allows assessing long-term system-wide impacts, exploring leverage points and communicating results to decision makers. In this paper, we follow an SD modelling approach to examine the future of water security in Yulin City. First, we present a conceptual model for integrating water supply and demand. Based on this, we build an SD model to simulate and analyse the dynamics of water resource over time. The model output is tested to ensure that it satisfactorily replicates the historical behaviour of the system. The model is used to quantitatively assess the effectiveness of various supply/demand management options. Three scenarios are designed and examined: business-as-usual, supply management, and demand management. Results show that current management regime cannot effectively meet the future water demand. Whereas supply acquisition provides short-term benefits, it cannot cope with the growing population. A combination of conservation measures and demand-management instruments is regarded the most effective strategy for balancing supply and demand.


System dynamics Water resources Water demand management Water conservation Yulin city 



We are grateful to the National Basic Research Program of China (No. 2010CB951104), (No. 2010CB951103) and Non-profit Industry Program of the Ministry of Water Resource of the People’s Republic of China (No. 200801001) for financial support of this research. Thanks also to the helpful comments received from the anonymous reviewers and the editors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiao-jun Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jian-yun Zhang
    • 2
  • Jiu-fu Liu
    • 1
  • Guo-qing Wang
    • 2
  • Rui-min He
    • 2
  • Amgad Elmahdi
    • 3
  • Sondoss Elsawah
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Hydrology and Water ResourcesNanjing Hydraulic Research InstituteNanjingChina
  2. 2.Research Centre for Climate ChangeMinistry of Water ResourcesNanjingChina
  3. 3.Urban Water Balance, Climate and Water DivisionBureau of MeteorologyMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Integrated Catchment Assessment and Management (iCAM)Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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