By combining the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) and system dynamics (SD) models, a compound index system is established for simulating and evaluating the water environment carrying capacity (WECC) of the Weihe River Basin. The development tendencies of the population, economy, water resource demand and supply, water environment, water pollution, and water management were obtained from 2005 to 2040 by applying the five scenarios designed in this study. The results indicate that the comprehensive solution scenario was the optimal scenario, and the WECC would upgrade from a ‘general’ status to a ‘good’ status. Moreover, the blind pursuit of rapid economic growth is inadvisable, and it will compromise the sustainability of the river basin area. The river basin area should divert local development modes toward increased sustainability, emphasizing the coordinated development of society, the economy, and the environment.

  • By using an integrated application of the AHP and SD models, the WECC evaluation index and simulation scenarios were established.

  • Obtaining the development tendencies of the WECC under different scenarios.

  • The comprehensive solution scenario was the optimal scenario.

  • The water resources would reach a balance between supply and demand in 2030.

  • Strengthening the WECC requires the coordinated development.

This content is only available as a PDF.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0), which permits copying, adaptation and redistribution, provided the original work is properly cited (

Supplementary data