In order to alleviate the water supply–demand problem, a flood resource utilization strategy is proposed, called ‘Flood Utilization’. The strategy focuses on building large-scale water conservancy facilities and improving management measures. This paper presents the probability analysis of floodwater utilization in a confluence area, where a tributary joins a main river. Baicheng is used as the study area, where the Taoer River joins the Nenjiang River. After a large number of analyses, the main results and conclusions are as follows: First, the upper limit of available floodwater corresponds to the Taoer River's flood with a 5% probability of occurrence. Secondly, there are compensation characteristics between the two rivers which mean that the Nenjiang River can supply water to the Taoer River area. The analysis of monthly runoff, shows that there are compensation characteristics in 50.9% of the data period. The compensation rates (CRs) for the months from June to October are 0.2, 0.27, 0.25, 0.27, and 0.2, respectively. Thirdly, the differences in the runoff characteristics show that it is suitable for floodwater utilization. Finally, it is proposed that floodwater utilization measures are based on local conditions, such as the regional water storage characteristics and the runoff characteristics of the two rivers, and should be applied for different periods.

Introduction

China is the world's most populous country, and the population is growing (Chen, 2000). Since the 1970s, the economy has been developing rapidly due to the reform and open policy, leading to corresponding growth in production, and an increase in domestic water and ecological water demands. From 1949 to 2006, China's population increased by about 1.4 times, but the total water demand increased by more than four times (Wang, 2006). The mean annual runoff in China is 2.8 × 1012 m3, ranking sixth in the world. However, in terms of runoff per capita, China's is only 30% of the world's average level (Liu & Chen, 2001), and China is one of the countries facing a serious water scarcity problem. The imbalance between water supply and water demand is expected to persist (Gao, 2005). In the 20th century, there were water shortage problems in more than 400 cities in China, and the problems were serious in 110 cities. There are 60 cities whose annual water shortage now exceeds 109 cubic metres of water (Zhao et al., 2006).

In China, the spatial and temporal distribution of water resources also contributes to the imbalance between water supply and water demand. Most rivers are seasonal and the main form of runoff is flooding. As a consequence of the monsoon climate, the occurrence of flooding is unevenly distributed in time and space. Most floods occur within a few months. The proportion of flood to runoff is also quite different between southern and northern areas. In the southern part of China, flooding during April to July accounts for about 60% of the total runoff, and in the northern part, flooding during June to September accounts for more than 80%. There is also a large difference in the annual runoff. In the north-west part of China, there is water shortage and the annual runoff coefficient of variation value is 0.8–1.0. In 2000 and 2001, there was drought in the Yangtze River basin (Li, 2006), causing crops to die in large areas. Over 11 years from 2000 to 2010, drought conditions were experienced in arid and semi-arid areas of western Jilin Province (Zhao & Dong, 2010). In recent years, the imbalance between water supply and water demand has become very serious in the Haihe River Basin, resulting in water shortage in urban areas, environmental pollution and deterioration of the ecological environment in the entire basin (Ma et al., 2007). These adverse environmental impacts due to water shortages also occurred in the Yellow River Basin (Chen & Mu, 2000). Further, the hydrological extremes caused by climate change and human activities are becoming more evident (Zhang et al., 2011). The interannual hydrological variability is becoming more significant, and droughts and floods are occurring more frequently in the downstream areas of river basins.

Over the years, flooding has become a synonym for disaster. For safety reasons, in the past, flooding was always made to discharge into the sea as fast as possible, which occurred for close to two thirds of the annual flooding (Zhang et al., 2003). This practice in fact exacerbates the water shortage problem. In 2003, this design concept was changed. A research report from the National Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters formally proposed flood resources connotation for the first time (Cheng et al., 2004). It recommended that the approach to flooding should change from ‘flood control’ to ‘flood management’. After the release of the report, many researchers began to focus on floodwater utilization. For example, Cao et al. (2005) put forward the theory of optimization dispatching and its application in floodwater utilization. Liu et al. (2009) put forward the idea of floodwater utilization based on flood forecast information of a reservoir operation chart. And many flood resources practices have been applied to projects across the entire country (Cheng et al., 2004; Zhang, 2008). The current flood resources measures are as follows:

  1. When meeting safety standards, the flood control level of a reservoir is appropriately adjusted so as to improve benefits.

  2. Flood peaks are used to clean polluted rivers and improve the water environment.

  3. Flood utilization projects are designed and constructed so that the duration of floods is extended in the fields, ponds, wetlands and the flood storage and detention areas at the same time, so that groundwater is replenished in a controlled manner.

  4. Floods are distributed in a river system according to the hydrological characteristics of the rivers.

  5. Rivers are further developed by constructing barrages to store floodwater.

  6. Floodwater is diverted between river basins according to interregional differences, such as storing the floodwater in the wet season and using it in the dry season.

These practices are the basis of many existing water conservancy projects (Qiu & Wang, 2004; Feng & Li, 2006), and they are combined with improvements in management so that more floodwater can be stored safely. These engineering and non-engineering measures (Wang, 2004) can enhance the storage of floodwater and resource utilization. For direct benefits, the current research on the practices and utilization of floodwater resources mainly focuses on improving the management of large-scale water conservancy projects, such as using a reservoir's level scheduling, staging scheduling, and forecasting methods. The results from this research improve the management of floodwater levels through the flood season so that the reservoirs can store more flood water. However, research on other practices is relatively scarce.

Further, the plain areas of the middle and lower reaches of seasonal rivers are always densely populated with industrial and agricultural developments. While there is huge water demand in these areas, there are no large-scale water conservancy projects. Therefore it is useful to study whether floodwater can be stored and used in these areas (Xu et al., 2003). This paper takes Baicheng as the study area, where the Taoer River (a tributary) joins the Nenjiang River. The physical geography and hydrological characteristics of seasonal rivers in the confluence area are analyzed as follows:

  • The physical geography, socio-economic, meteorology, hydrology, and water resources of Baicheng area.

  • The hydrological characteristics of compensation within the region so as to determine the feasibility of floodwater resources utilization.

  • The principles, procedures and planning methods of floodwater resources utilization between the main river and its tributaries.

  • Based on the different hydrological levels of the tributary, floodwater resources utilization planning is carried out according to the hydrological interaction between the main river and its tributaries.

Baicheng area and methods of analysis

Physical and hydrological characteristics of Baicheng area

Baicheng is located in the arid and semi-arid area of the western part of Jilin Province, China, as shown in Figure 1. The hydrological data from this area have been used for the study. The local mean annual precipitation is only 400 mm, while the annual evaporation is more than 1,200 mm. As shown in Figures 2 and 3, the area has large seasonal, spatial and yearly variations in rainfall. In fact, the precipitation mainly concentrates in the flood season (i.e. from June to August), which accounts for 80.2% of the annual precipitation (Liu et al., 2007). According to the data from 1949 to 2014, drought occurs frequently in Baicheng (spring drought, 91.4%; summer drought, 77.9%; autumn drought, 79%). As such, drought has a significant impact on agricultural production, life and environment and limits the regional economic development. On the other hand, there is abundant floodwater during the flood seasons as there are eight rivers, including one major river, in Baicheng. For example, in August, the long duration flood of Nenjiang River passes through the north-eastern side of Baicheng resulting in a high water level in the river. In fact, the runoff in the flood season of Nenjiang River is about 80% of Baicheng's annual runoff. This area has a predominantly agricultural-based economy and is one of the most important regions for national food security.
Fig. 1.

Location and digital elevation model (DEM) of Baicheng.

Fig. 1.

Location and digital elevation model (DEM) of Baicheng.

Fig. 2.

Baicheng's annual precipitation (1952–2013).

Fig. 2.

Baicheng's annual precipitation (1952–2013).

Fig. 3.

Average monthly precipitation of Baicheng.

Fig. 3.

Average monthly precipitation of Baicheng.

Research data

Physical data

Baicheng's geography and water-storage facilities under natural conditions were investigated; these mainly cover wetlands, ponds and channels. There are four medium-sized reservoirs with a total storage capacity of 1.57 × 109 m3, of which the utilizable capacity is 774 × 106 m3. The total area of marshes and ponds is 543.27 km2 with a storage capacity of 1.055 × 109 m3. Most of these marshes and ponds form the Xianghai and Momoge wetlands. Others are in the riparian zones of the Taoer River. There are 31 marshes and ponds using the Nenjiang River as a water source. The area of these marshes and ponds is 312.21 km2, with a storage capacity of 703 × 106 m3. There are 36 ponds using the Taoer River as the water source. The area of these ponds is 231.06 km2 with a storage capacity of 351 × 106 m3. The Xianghai and Momoge wetlands are the two main wetlands in Baicheng. The area of Xianghai wetland is 1,067 km2, and the area of Momoge wetland is 1,440 km2. There are 21 irrigation districts in Baicheng, two of which are in Taobei, five in Zhenlai, three in Tongyu, six in Taonan, and five in Da'an. Figure 4 shows the river system in Baicheng.
Fig. 4.

River system, flood diversion and storage projects in Baicheng.

Fig. 4.

River system, flood diversion and storage projects in Baicheng.

Hydrological data

The Nenjiang River and the Taoer River are the two main rivers included in this study. The Nenjiang River is one of the sources of the Songhua River in the north; its main stream length is 1,370 km with a drainage area of 29.7 × 104 km2. It originates from the middle and south side of Yilehuli Mountain, which is an offshoot of Daxinganling Mountain. The source of the river is known as the Nanweng River, starting at an altitude of 1,030 m. The elevation of the river drops by about 900 m. The Nenjiang River has 229 tributaries with a drainage area more than 50 km2. Except for the Nierji Reservoir upstream, there are no other large-scale water conservancy projects along the river.

The Taoer River is the largest tributary of the Nenjiang River. It originates in Horqin Right-Front-Country. Its stream length is 595 km with a drainage area of 3.307 × 104 km2. The Charlson Reservoir is upstream of the river in Inner Mongolia. The total storage capacity of the reservoir is 12.53 × 108 m3.

The two rivers join at the Moon-lake Reservoir which is 1,303 km downstream of the Nenjiang River. Table 1 shows a comparison of the physical and runoff characteristics of the Nenjiang River and the Taoer River.

Table 1.

Comparison of physical and runoff characteristics of Nenjiang River and Taoer River.

 Drainage area (km2Stream length in study area (km) Mean annual runoff (108 m3Flood season Mean runoff in flood season (108 m3
Nenjiang River 42,346 150 226.97 Jun–Oct 164.44 
Taoer River 9,594.5 302 13.88 Jun–Sept 8.37 
 Drainage area (km2Stream length in study area (km) Mean annual runoff (108 m3Flood season Mean runoff in flood season (108 m3
Nenjiang River 42,346 150 226.97 Jun–Oct 164.44 
Taoer River 9,594.5 302 13.88 Jun–Sept 8.37 

In this study, 55 years of data (1956–2010) from four hydrological stations (i.e. Dalai, Jiangqiao, Taonan and Heidimiao) were used to assess the hydrological characteristics of the Nenjiang River and the Taoer River. Figure 5 shows the locations of the hydrological stations.
Fig. 5.

Locations of hydrological stations.

Fig. 5.

Locations of hydrological stations.

Anomaly percentage method

Categorization of high-flow and low-flow year

In order to evaluate the measures, such as importing floodwater from the Nenjiang River and discharging it into the Moon-lake Reservoir and implementing flood resourcification, the hydrological characteristics of the Nenjiang and the Taoer Rivers were first analyzed. The Taoer River is a tributary of the Nenjiang River. While they are both part of the same Songhuajiang River network, the hydrological characteristics of the Taoer River and the Nenjiang River are different because of different basin size, rainstorm route, and space-time distribution. In order to categorize the hydrological type of each year according to the quantity of annual runoff, the average annual runoff for the study period was calculated first. The anomaly percentage for each year was then calculated. The following formulas were used to calculate the anomaly percentage: 
formula
1
 
formula
2
 
formula
3
 
formula
4
The hydrographic type of each year was then categorized as follows: 
formula
5
 
formula
6
 
formula
7

Comparison of runoff process during flood season

As there is a large difference in the flow characteristics between the Taoer River and the Nenjiang River, is it possible to import floodwater from the Nenjiang River and discharge it into the Moon-lake Reservoir to supplement the flow in the Taoer River? The discharge during the flood season in these two rivers accounts for a large portion of the whole discharge. Hence, the daily discharges of these two rivers from June to October (1951–2010) were analyzed.

Hydrological analyses

Comparison between precipitation and runoff

Baicheng is on the downstream part of the river. There is a time difference between the peak of precipitation and runoff in Baicheng which is caused by the time difference between precipitation and flow convergence. Hence, as shown in Figure 6, peak precipitation always occurs before peak runoff. Generally speaking, when the upstream floodwater is used, the local main rainfall process has been concluded and the heavy precipitation process rarely occurs again during the period. Analysis of 60 years’ (1951–2010) data, to establish the interrelations between the local precipitation and the annual runoff of the Nenjiang River and the Taoer River, shows that there is a time compensation characteristic. It is beneficial to store floodwater and divert it to ponds, wetlands and farmland that are low in water supply.
Fig. 6.

Interannual distribution of precipitation and runoff in Baicheng.

Fig. 6.

Interannual distribution of precipitation and runoff in Baicheng.

Analysis of flood frequency threshold of available storage space

Flooding occurs mostly during the wet season. For Baicheng, it is important to take advantage of this floodwater as it is located in the arid and semi-arid regions. There are numerous marshes, forests, grasslands, swamps, rivers and lakes in Baicheng, forming a typical diverse wetland landscape. The space for water storage in Baicheng includes reservoirs, wetlands, ponds and irrigation area. Table 2 shows a summary of the water storage space.

Table 2.

Summary of water storage space.

 Reservoir
 
   
 Total storage Utilizable capacity Ponds Wetlands Irrigation area 
Storage capacity (108 m316.37 8.18 10.43 2.8 7.3 
 Reservoir
 
   
 Total storage Utilizable capacity Ponds Wetlands Irrigation area 
Storage capacity (108 m316.37 8.18 10.43 2.8 7.3 

The storage capacity of the irrigation area refers to irrigation water demand, total irrigation norm is 600 m3 per 0.0667 hectares.

The total water storage capacity of Baicheng is 28.71 × 108 m3. This volume equals the Taoer River's flood volume with a 7% probability of occurrence. Without considering other risk factors, the maximum storage capacity is 36.9 × 108 m3, which equals the Taoer River's flood volume with a 5% probability of occurrence. Hence, the upper limit of available flood water is the Taoer River's flood volume with a 5% probability of occurrence. When the water resource from the Taoer River is insufficient, it is a good measure to divert floodwater from the Nenjiang River to cover the shortage. The total water demand of Baicheng is up to 5 × 108 m3/a. Based on the preceding study, for more than 90% of the time, the runoff in the Taoer River is less than the available storage capacity. Therefore, the benefits of using the Taoer River floodwater as a resource outweigh the risks in the years with no floods.

Flood and water resource compensation analysis

Although the main stream and the tributaries are connected, the weather and the geology are different for different river basins. Hence, the magnitude and timing of floods are also different. By applying the anomaly percentage method (Section 2.3) to 55 years (1956–2010) of annual runoff data, each year is then categorized into high-flow, moderate-flow or low-flow for the two rivers. Figure 7 shows a comparison of the anomaly percentage between the two rivers.
Fig. 7.

Comparison of anomaly percentage between Nenjiang and Taoer Rivers.

Fig. 7.

Comparison of anomaly percentage between Nenjiang and Taoer Rivers.

According to the results, the flow in the Taoer River was moderate in 11 years (20% of the data period), high in 15 years (27.3% of the data period), and low in 29 years (52.7% of the data period). The flow in the Nenjiang was moderate in 20 years (36.4% of the data period), high in 15 years (27.3% of the data period), and low in 20 years (36.4% of the data period). Based on the categorization, the flow in the Taoer River was low most of the time, whilst, the flow in the Nenjiang River was moderate or low most of the time. The interannual variability of the two rivers is large, varying among high-flow, moderate-flow and low-flow. Table 3 shows a summary of the flow conditions in the two rivers.

Table 3.

Summary of annual flow conditions in Nenjiang and Taoer Rivers.

Hydrological condition Years Hydrological condition Years Hydrological condition Years 
Both Flood N Normal; T Flood N Dry; T Flood 
N Flood; T Normal Both Normal N Dry; T Normal 
N Flood; T Dry N Normal; T Dry Both Dry 17 
Hydrological condition Years Hydrological condition Years Hydrological condition Years 
Both Flood N Normal; T Flood N Dry; T Flood 
N Flood; T Normal Both Normal N Dry; T Normal 
N Flood; T Dry N Normal; T Dry Both Dry 17 

N: Nenjiang River; T: Taoer River.

The monthly runoff data from June to October (1956–2010) were also analyzed. The period defined as the Floodwater Available Period is when the flow in the Nenjiang River is either high or moderate while the flow in the Taoer River is either moderate or low. The percentage of the Floodwater Available Period over the total period is defined as the compensation rate (CR). 
formula
8

Table 4 shows the monthly flow conditions in the Nenjiang River and the Taoer River and the CR.

Table 4.

Summary of monthly flow conditions in Nenjiang River and Taoer River and CR.

Hydrological condition June July August September October 
Both Flood 13 
N Flood; T Normal 
N Flood; T Dry 
N Normal; T Flood 
Both Normal 
N Normal; T Dry 
N Dry; T Flood 
N Dry; T Normal 
Both Dry 21 18 23 19 24 
CR 0.27 0.29 0.25 0.33 0.27 
Hydrological condition June July August September October 
Both Flood 13 
N Flood; T Normal 
N Flood; T Dry 
N Normal; T Flood 
Both Normal 
N Normal; T Dry 
N Dry; T Flood 
N Dry; T Normal 
Both Dry 21 18 23 19 24 
CR 0.27 0.29 0.25 0.33 0.27 

Based on annual runoff analysis, the compensation condition existed in 27.3% of the data period. Based on monthly runoff analysis, the compensation condition existed in 50.9% of the data period. The CRs for the months from June to October are 0.27, 0.29, 0.25, 0.33, and 0.27, respectively.

In view of the water storage in the Baicheng area and flow conditions of the two rivers, it is safe and effective to divert floodwater from the Nenjiang River to the Taoer River.

Analysis of runoff

Figure 8 shows runoff hydrographs for the Nenjiang River and Taoer River from June to October 1975.
Fig. 8.

Runoff hydrographs of Nenjiang River and Taoer River from June to October in 1975.

Fig. 8.

Runoff hydrographs of Nenjiang River and Taoer River from June to October in 1975.

Comparison of 55 runoff hydrographs for the Nenjiang River and Taoer River from June to October (1956–2010) shows the following:

  1. On average, the peak discharge of the Nenjiang River is almost 20 times larger than that of the Taoer River. The corresponding runoff volume of the Nenjiang River is also much larger.

  2. The flood period of the Nenjiang River can be more than 100 days; it is 60 days on average during the data period. This is longer than that of the Taoer River whose average flood period is shorter than 40 days during the period of analysis.

  3. The time to peak for the Taoer River is earlier than that of the Nenjiang River. The last flood peak of the Taoer River is almost 24 days earlier than that of the Nenjiang River.

  4. After the flow in the Taoer River has subsided, the flow in the Nenjiang River is still relatively large with an average overflow of 90.6 × 108 m3.

The 10-day runoff data were also analyzed from the first 10 days of May to the last 10 days of November. Figure 9 shows the 10-day runoff of the Nenjiang River and the Taoer River.
Fig. 9.

Ten-day runoff of Nenjiang River and Taoer River.

Fig. 9.

Ten-day runoff of Nenjiang River and Taoer River.

Further, the probabilities of flood for the two rivers were also calculated, and the results are shown in Figure 10.
Fig. 10.

Probability of flood in Nenjiang and Taoer Rivers.

Fig. 10.

Probability of flood in Nenjiang and Taoer Rivers.

Floodwater utilization system

The area of Baicheng is located in both arid and semi-arid regions; floodwater in the main river can be diverted to the tributary areas through the connecting reservoir. In view of the flow rates in the two rivers and their timings, a floodwater utilization system was developed, as shown in Figure 11.
Fig. 11.

The floodwater utilization system of Baicheng.

Fig. 11.

The floodwater utilization system of Baicheng.

According to locations of water storage units, these units can be divided into three types, as follows:

  • Type 1–Diverting Tributaries Flood Segments. That is to say, only floodwater from the Taoer River can flow into these areas; the floodwater from the Nenjiang River can not flow into these areas.

  • Type 2–Combined Flood Diversion Segments. In other words, not only floodwater from the Taoer River can flow into these areas, but also that from the Nenjiang River.

  • Type 3–Diverting Mainstream Segments. It is said that floodwater from the Taoer River can not flow into these areas, but that from the Nenjiang River can.

They can be used in different conditions.

Flood diversion plan when the flow in Taoer River is high

When the flow in the Taoer River is high, irrespective of the flow conditions in the Nenjiang River, the flow in the Taoer River is enough for Types I and II storage units. The floodwater should then be stored in the sequence of reservoirs first, ponds second, and wetlands last. Planning and design were carried out based on earlier estimates when conducting the analysis. Thus, for actual utilization, planning and design need to be carried out in conjunction with flood forecasting and risk analysis.

Flood diversion plan when the flow in Taoer River is moderate

When the flow in the Taoer River is moderate, Type I storage units should store floodwater early, starting from June. The water in the reservoir should be stored to the flood control level, and in the ponds to the 70% level. For Type II storage units, floodwater should be stored from early July, first with water from the Taoer River, and then with water from the Nenjiang River. Type III storage units, should store floodwater from the Nenjiang River at the end of August for safety.

Flood diversion plan when the flow in Taoer River is low

When the flow in the Taoer River is low, in order to ensure there is sufficient water supply to the Taoer River area, Type I storage units should store as much water as they can get from the Taoer River. Types II and III storage units then get water from the Nenjiang River.

Conclusions

A large water demand and differences in water distribution both spatially and temporally cause a serious water shortage problem in China. By storing floodwater, it can be used as an effective way to solve this problem.

In this study, in order to determine the probability of floodwater utilization in a river confluence area downstream of rivers, the Baicheng area was used as a case study. The hydrological and geographical characteristics of this area and the differences between the main river and the tributaries were investigated. The main findings were as follows:

  1. The Nenjiang River and the Taoer River are sources of floodwater. The vast wetlands, small ponds and reservoirs have large water storage capacity. However, due to the time difference between precipitation and runoff and limited rainfall volume, the chance of storing floodwater is reduced.

  2. Analyses of annual, monthly and 10-day runoff show that there are compensation factors.

    • (a) The discharge of the Taoer River is relatively low, so there is insufficient water to satisfy the water demand of the Baicheng area. Since the Moon-lake Reservoir is connected to the Nenjiang River and the Taoer River, the surplus water in the Nenjiang River can be transferred to the Moon-lake Reservoir and the nearby wetlands.

    • (b) Based on the annual runoff analysis, the Nenjiang could supply floodwater to the Taoer River area for 27.3% of the time. Based on the monthly runoff analysis, there was a compensation factor to divert floodwater from the Nenjiang River to the floodwater storage units in Baicheng for 61.8% of the time. The CRs for the months from June to October are 0.27, 0.29, 0.25, 0.33, and 0.27, respectively.

    • (c) A comparison of 55 runoff hydrographs for the Nenjiang River and the Taoer River from June to October in 1956–2010, shows that, on average, the peak discharge of the Nenjiang River is almost 20 times larger than that of the Taoer River. The flood period of the Nenjiang River is much longer than that of the Taoer River. The time to peak of the Taoer River is earlier than that of the Nenjiang River. All these characteristics indicate that it is safe to divert floodwater from the Nenjiang River to Baicheng. The probability analysis of the 10-day runoff shows the same result.

  3. According to the locations of water storage units, these units have been divided into three types: Type I – Diverting Tributaries Flood Segments, Type II – Combined Flood Diversion Segments, and Type III – Diverting Mainstream Segments. These water storage units can be used under different conditions. A floodwater utilization plan can be developed based on the hydrological conditions and the type of storage unit.

All the findings in this study indicate that floodwater can be diverted from the Nenjiang River to the Taoer River in the confluence area. However, since only probability analysis has been carried out in this study the flood utilization measure needs further study including flood forecasting and risk analysis. These studies are to be carried out.

Acknowledgements

This research is supported by the Natural Sciences Foundation of China (51209030). The authors would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their review and constructive comments related to this manuscript.

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