The scientific construction of the indicator system and the objective evaluation method that apply to the value of water conservancy heritage are of great significance to the promotion and development of water culture and water conservancy heritage conservation. This study constructs an index system for water conservancy heritage value assessment from seven first-level indexes, such as engineering value, economic value, social value, ecological value, artistic value, innovative value and heritage value, builds a fuzzy comprehensive evaluation model based on expert knowledge and public perception and carries out empirical evidence with the example of China's Red Flag Canal. The results show that the overall value of the Red Flag Canal was 94.68 points, which reached a high level. The result is consistent with that the Red Flag Canal was successfully declared as the national water conservancy heritage, thus verifying the scientificity and rationality of the index system and the evaluation method constructed by this study.

  • This study constructs the first-level and second-level index systems for the comprehensive evaluation of the value of water conservancy heritage.

  • This study builds a comprehensive evaluation model based on expert knowledge and public cognition.

  • This study conducts a comprehensive evaluation of the value of water conservancy heritage.

Water conservancy heritage is an important part of the world cultural heritage, which not only shows the wisdom and achievements of people in the history but also records the development history of water conservancy or important social changes (Xiaoyun, 2018). Water conservancy heritage is a collection of water conservancy systems with unique cultural characteristics and outstanding historical value in terms of technology, ideas, production, life and culture. In 2021, the Ministry of Water Resources of the People's Republic of China defined the concept of water conservancy heritage. It refers to engineering and non-engineering cultural heritage with high historical, technical, social, economic, cultural and ecological values, which is developed by the people in the long history of water control and management, especially in doing away with the harmful and initiating the useful. Meanwhile, ‘The Guidelines for Declaration of National Water Conservancy Heritage’ was released, and the identification of the national water conservancy heritage began immediately. Currently, related research at home and abroad mainly focuses on ‘water cultural heritage’, which is scattered in the fields of hydraulic (Jian & Yiqi, 2012), geography (Li et al., 2014), architecture (Jie et al., 2017), ecology (Jihong & Zhengfu, 2004), and archaeology (Jianguo & Hui, 2018). Since heritage has multiple values, it is necessary to adopt scientific index systems and methods to evaluate, so as to provide a professional reference for their development and protection.

The ‘Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention’ provides detailed provisions on the identification of cultural heritage, and the identification shall meet one or more of the following criteria (UNESCO, 2005): representing a unique artistic achievement or creative masterpiece; on behalf of unique architectural art or a monumental building in a certain period or cultural area, and can reveal the change of human thinking in town planning and landscape design; representing a civilization or cultural tradition that has disappeared; serving as a typical example of a building, group of buildings or landscape, and showing one or several important stages in human history; serving as a typical traditional human habitation or use, and representing one (or several) cultures and vulnerable to irreversible change and influence; serving as the evidence of an event, tradition, thought, belief or literary and artistic work of special significance and so on. In 2005, the State Council of the People's Republic of China issued the ‘Notice on Strengthening the Protection of Cultural Heritage’, and the identification of cultural heritage has been launched since then. In 2014, the Chinese National Committee on Irrigation and Drainage began to select domestic irrigation projects and report to the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage (ICID). It was the first selection activity for water conservancy heritage in China. By 2017, 50 Chinese heritages have been included in the world cultural heritage or the natural heritage list, seven of which are the water conservancy heritages. Water conservancy heritage is an important part of cultural heritage, and its selection and evaluation system has been gradually improved in China, along with its protection and value evaluation research.

The value evaluation of cultural heritage generally adopts qualitative and quantitative methods. The qualitative method is easy to operate and is widely used in its identification, protection and classification research. Based on the characteristics of the heritage, the qualitative method mainly conducts in-depth value excavation according to the index system. Generally speaking, the assessed object does not need to fully meet all the standards but only needs to meet one or more indicators and has been preserved to this day, then it can be recognized as cultural heritage (UNESCO, 1972). For example, Min & Yihui (2011) proposed one method for evaluating the value of urban cultural heritage and listed the evaluation criteria in detail, such as the authenticity of morphological characteristics, the diversity of functional types, the flexibility of time definition, the universality of regional characteristics, the integrity of current characteristics, and the regularity of evolution. The quantitative method is the quantification of qualitative description, carried out on the basis of the qualitative method and applied to the identified objects. First, it needs to determine the quantitative standard of each indicator, assuming that the value of all indicators can be quantified. Second, the quantified values are added according to certain rules, and the comprehensive value can be obtained (Nianqiang, 2012). Quantitative methods mirror the characteristic values of cultural heritage in a certain state and are mainly used for the classification, ranking and overall evaluation. Its theories can be divided into three categories: methods based on mathematical theory, such as fuzzy analysis; methods based on statistical analysis, such as principal component analysis; and methods to reproduce decision support. For example, scholars put forward an evaluation system and a model optimization method of traditional villages, which solved the limitation of the objective evaluation (Qingrong & Fan, 2006; Yong et al., 2008). Some scholars have also established the resource classification and evaluation system for traditional villages using stratum analysis and expert questionnaires (Tiancui & Feng, 2007). For example, Zhihong (2021) reviewed the exploration and development process of the value evaluation for the traditional village and constructed the new value evaluation system by analytic hierarchy process (AHP).

Most of the research on the value evaluation of water conservancy heritage adopts qualitative, quantitative, or a combination of the two methods (Valipour, 2017; Chong et al., 2022; Kumar et al., 2022; Saleh Al et al., 2022). There are studies on classification and grading (Jiangang et al., 2012; Yinghua et al., 2012; Bo, 2013; Jinhong & Mengjun, 2020) and the index system, and a variety of evaluation systems have been proposed. Zhang Nianqiang redefined water conservancy heritage and formulated the value evaluation system based on four types of classification (Nianqiang et al., 2012). Tan Xuming constructed a corresponding value evaluation system (Xuming, 2012) based on the classification of engineering and non-engineering cultural heritage. In addition, when different evaluation systems are applied to the same water conservancy heritage, the results are not similar. In other words, when scholars have used different index systems to evaluate the value of the Grand Canal, the results are not the same. Zhang Zhirong carried out the definition of the concept and the value evaluation of the Grand Canal in terms of material form, institutional characteristics and spiritual form (Zhirong & Liang, 2012; Yunpeng et al., 2016). Xiao et al. (2011) made a historical deduction and analysis of the Grand Canal (Changzhou section) by combining the ‘horizontal + vertical’ space-time dimension, and the grading and value evaluation was conducted based on historical value, cultural value, and preservation status as well, which is a relatively systematic exploration of value evaluation. Xiaonan (2009) carried out research on the outstanding value evaluation and the heritage composition analysis of the Grand Canal according to the index of Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage and from the perspective of the declaration of world cultural heritage and heritage composition. In addition, there are many studies on landscape heritage (Jin, 2020), focusing on the water adaptation mechanism of traditional urban and rural settlements and agricultural landscapes in different regions. And research on the value evaluation, protection and utilization of ‘water cultural heritage’ is an important topic in landscape architecture (Lu et al., 2016; Kunpeng, 2017).

Since the value evaluation of cultural heritage needs to be combined with heritage characteristics, and there is no unified theory and method applied to the economic value assessment. Therefore, there is still great uncertainty in the identification and value evaluation of water conservancy heritage. In view of the above reasons, based on the ‘The Guidelines for Declaration of National Water Conservancy Heritage’, this study constructed an index system for the value evaluation of the water conservancy heritage. A comprehensive evaluation method based on expert knowledge and public cognition is proposed as well and applied to the value evaluation of the Red Flag Canal. The result shows that the index system can comprehensively and objectively reflect the comprehensive value of the Red Flag Canal, totally in line with that of the Red Flag Canal being successfully approved as China's national water conservancy heritage. Hence, the index system and evaluation method not only fully reflect the comprehensive value of the Red Flag Canal but also realize the scientificalness of value evaluation of water conservancy heritage, which has a certain theoretical value and an application value.

The indicator system is the collection of several interrelated statistical indicators. The degree of comprehensiveness and objectivity of the indicator system determine that of science and accuracy of the evaluation results. The index system designed in this study is based on the following principles: each indicator can fully reflect the current characteristics of the heritage. The indicator system is relatively complete; the number of indicators should not be too large and easy to operate; the indicators are relatively independent and uncorrelated; the indicators are easily measurable and comparable, and the data are easy to obtain and reliable; and the content of the indicators remains relatively stable in a certain period and can analyze the status quo of the heritage and predict its development trend. Based on the literature review and the ‘The Guidelines for Declaration of National Water Conservancy Heritage’, this study selected seven first-level indexes, including engineering value, economic value, social value, ecological value, artistic value, innovative value, and heritage value. Moreover, the corresponding second-level indicators are also designed based on the connotation of each first-level index. The index system of water conservancy heritage constructed in this study is as follows:

  • 1.

    Engineering value

This index mainly analyzes and evaluates whether a water conservancy project is an excellent model for human beings to do away with the harmful and initiating the useful. For example, whether it is a unique and special witness to a certain engineering concept, construction technology, landscape design, harmonious coexistence between man and nature, etc.; whether there have ever been important water-control and water-management events in the construction of the project; or whether it has an important historical impact and contribution. First, the basic function of the water conservancy project is to solve various water resource problems, and its basic value can generally be reflected in the benefits of water supply, irrigation and power generation. Therefore, we take its basic value as one of the second-level indicators of engineering value, namely, engineering benefit value. Second, there are many innovations and breakthroughs in the construction process of water conservancy projects, such as scientific design, construction technology, landscape design, and harmonious planning. These creative designs and unique landscape planning can be one of the second-level indicators, that is, engineering exemplary value. Third, there are usually many major events and outstanding figures with far-reaching influence in its construction process, which should also be one of the second-level indicators, namely, engineering historical value. To sum up, the engineering value should include three second-level indicators: engineering benefit value, engineering exemplary value and engineering historical value.

  • 2.

    Economic value

This index mainly analyzes and evaluates the value of water conservancy projects in terms of production and lifestyle changes, industrial adjustment, life improvement, environmental improvement and water conservancy development. First, the completion of the water conservancy project has significantly improved the local environmental conditions, which in turn has promoted the rapid development of the local economy, which can be defined as the environment-improving value. Second, the use of water conservancy projects either solves the local water problem, provides convenient transportation, or both, greatly improving the local living conditions, which can be defined as the life-enhancing value. Third, water conservancy projects have improved local production conditions and optimized the industrial structure, which can be defined as the production-promoting value. Finally, the construction of water conservancy heritage has comprehensively promoted the deep integration of local industries and further promoted the rapid development of various industries, which can be defined as the industry-integrating value. Therefore, there are four second-level indicators included in the economic value, that is, environment-improving value, production-promoting value, life-enhancing value, and industry-integrating value.

  • 3.

    Social value

This index mainly analyzes and evaluates the social contribution of water conservancy projects in maintaining social stability, governing the country, people's integration, frontier stability, and national unity in a specific period of time. First, the completion of the water conservancy project has solved the flood disaster and related problems and provided a good guarantee for the stable development of the local society, which can be defined as the social stability value. Second, in the construction and daily management of water conservancy heritage, the local government has played an important guiding role and has also cultivated a large number of professional and management talents. These have promoted local social changes and improved the local governance level, which can be defined as the county governance value. Third, as a linear project, a water conservancy project often spans multiple administrative regions. Since its operation and management require coordination and cooperation between regions, it also strengthens the communication between regions, thereby promoting mutual learning and economic and cultural cooperation, which can be defined as the regional cooperation value. Fourth, water conservancy projects often promote local economic, social and environmental development, thereby contributing to rapid population growth, which can be defined as the population growth value. Fifth, as a historical relic and a famous scenic spot, water conservancy heritage often attracts many domestic and foreign tourists to visit and travel, thereby enhancing its social influence, which can be defined as the social impact value. To sum up, the social value includes five second-level indicators: social stability value, county governance value, regional cooperation value, population growth value and social impact value.

  • 4.

    Ecological value

This index mainly analyzes and evaluates the ecological improvement value of water conservancy heritage in terms of soil and water conservation, landscape shaping, ecological environment improvement, climate regulation, biodiversity protection, etc. First, the water conservancy project will have a significant positive impact on the water quality, water quantity, forest and grass coverage, soil erosion control, etc., in the surrounding area, thereby better improving the local ecological environment and realizing the harmonious coexistence of man and nature, which is the so-called ecological service value. Second, the heritage water conservancy projects will lead to the construction of auxiliary projects such as bank and slope protection and small dams, thus forming a multi-water system and species-rich ecological environment and improving the local ecological quality, which can be defined as the environment-friendly value. Finally, the unique natural landscape, cultural landscape, and landscape value of the water conservancy heritage itself are the important part of its ecological value, which can be defined as the unique landscape value. Therefore, the ecological value of water conservancy heritage includes three second-level indicators: ecological service value, environment-friendly value and unique landscape value.

  • 5.

    Artistic value

This index mainly analyzes and evaluates the creative expression techniques and artistic level of the water conservancy heritage in terms of spatial layout, modeling design, material selection, color decoration, and style. It also evaluates historical artistic features and plastic arts and other artistic values of cultural relics and monuments, such as attached inscriptions, carvings, murals, furnishings and derivatives. First, the harmonious integration of the water conservancy heritage and the surrounding environment can form a beautiful landscape with good artistic characteristics, which can be defined as the architectural artistic value. Second, there will be many well-protected historical relics in the water conservancy heritage. These historical relics have extremely high cultural relics and artistic value, which can be defined as the antique artistic value. Third, the water conservancy heritage will drive many new industries and new products, showing profound spiritual connotations and values. These can be reflected in film and television works, text writing, commercial activities, etc., and can be defined as the spiritual artistic value. To sum up, this index includes three second-level indicators, namely architectural art value, antique artistic value and spiritual artistic value.

  • 6.

    Innovative value

This index mainly analyzes and evaluates the reference significance of water conservancy heritage to similar projects at that time, as well as the leading value of scientific knowledge dissemination, basic scientific research, and technological progress. First, based on traditional water-control ideas and technologies, the construction of water conservancy projects often creatively adopts new technological methods under the limited conditions at that time. Therefore, it has a pioneering, advanced and leading role in many aspects, such as site selection and layout method, planning and design, construction technology, building materials, hydraulic technology, etc., which can be defined as the technological innovation value. Second, the construction and operation of water conservancy heritage will also form unique management system and regulations, which can be defined as the management innovation value. Third, the construction of water conservancy projects often relies on the excellent spiritual qualities of the builders, such as emancipating the mind, self-reliance and the arduous of arduous struggle. These unique spiritual cultures and excellent qualities can provide a steady stream of spiritual power for the development of the local economy and society, which can be defined as the humanistic innovation value. Therefore, the innovation value includes three second-level indicators: technological innovation value, management innovation value and humanistic innovation value.

  • 7.

    Heritage value

This indicator mainly refers to the sustainability of water conservancy heritage that continues to this day and is still being used, especially in the communication of water culture. It mainly analyzes and evaluates the value in terms of knowledge dissemination, academic research, public welfare popular science, etc., and education leading value in terms of folk customs, spirit, morality, view, etc. The research value and the education-leading value of water conservancy heritage in academia and publicity can be defined as the academic research value. Moreover, the completion of the water conservancy heritage project not only brings many material benefits but also cultivates rich spiritual culture. These spiritual cultures have their own characteristics and far-reaching influence, which is an important part of the value of water conservancy heritage and can be defined as the spiritual heritage value. In addition, water conservancy heritage not only has multiple values such as science, history and art, but also the main body of its heritage can continue to be used now and in the future, which is also part of the heritage value and can be defined as the sustainable utilization value. Therefore, the heritage value includes three second-level indicators, namely spiritual heritage value, academic research value and sustainable utilization value.

The first-level and second-level index systems constructed in this study are shown in Table 1, and the specific meaning of each second-level indicator is also explained. The index system has been verified by experts many times, and there is no problem with repeated evaluation. Even though some second-level indicators have similar names, they belong to different first-level indicators and their focus is different. For example, the environment-improving value in the economic value and its main focus is to evaluate whether the construction of water conservancy heritage greatly improves the local environmental conditions, drives the rapid development of the local economy and promotes food production. The focus of this indicator is obviously different from the environment-friendly value in the ecological value. The latter focuses on specific environmental improvements that can be brought about by water conservancy heritage, such as artificial afforestation, construction of slope protection and small dams. In addition, when evaluating the value of water conservancy projects, the assessed object does not need to meet all the index standards but only needs to meet one or more of them, and it can be recognized as water conservancy heritage.

Table 1

The index system of water conservancy heritage constructed in this study.

First-level indexSecond-level indicatorThe specific meaning of the indicator
Engineering value Engineering benefit value The benefits of water supply, irrigation, and power generation 
 Engineering exemplary value Innovations and breakthroughs in the construction process of water conservancy projects, such as scientific design, construction technology, landscape design, and harmonious planning 
Engineering historical value Major events and outstanding figures with far-reaching influence 
Economic value Environment-improving value The water conservancy project has significantly improved the local environmental conditions, which, in turn, has promoted the rapid development of the local economy 
Life-enhancing value The use of water conservancy projects either solves the local water problem, provides convenient transportation, or both, greatly improves the local living conditions 
Production-promoting value Water conservancy projects have improved local production conditions and optimized the industrial structure 
Industry-integrating value The water conservancy heritage has comprehensively promoted the deep integration of local industries and further promoted the rapid development of various industries 
Social value Social stability value The water conservancy project has solved the flood disaster and related problems, and provided good guarantee for the stable development of the local society 
County governance value In the construction and management process of the water conservancy project, the local government has played an important guiding role and has also cultivated a large number of professional and management talents, which have promoted local social changes and improved the local governance level 
Regional cooperation value The operation and management of water conservancy project often requires coordination and cooperation between regions, strengthens the communication between regions, and promotes their learning and economic and cultural cooperation 
Population growth value The water conservancy project often promotes local economic, social and environmental development, thereby greatly contributing to rapid population growth 
Social impact value Water conservancy heritage often attracts many domestic and foreign tourists to visit and travel, thereby enhancing its social influence 
Ecological value Ecological service value The water conservancy project will have a significant positive impact on the water quality, water quantity, forest and grass coverage, soil erosion control, etc., in the surrounding area, thereby better improving the local ecological environment and realizing the harmonious coexistence of man and nature 
Environment friendly value The construction of auxiliary projects such as bank and slope protection and small dams, thus forming a multi-water system and a species-rich ecological environment and improving the local ecological quality 
Unique landscape value The unique natural landscape, cultural landscape, and landscape value of the water conservancy heritage 
Artistic value Architectural art value The harmonious integration of the water conservancy heritage and the surrounding environment can form the beautiful landscape with good artistic characteristics 
Antique artistic value There will be many well-protected historical relics affiliated in the water conservancy heritage. These historical relics have extremely high cultural relics and artistic values 
Spiritual artistic value The water conservancy heritage will drive many new industries and products, showing profound spiritual connotation and value 
Innovative value Technological innovation value The construction of water conservancy projects often creatively adopts new science and technology and methods under the limited conditions at that time, which has a pioneering, advanced and leading role in many aspects, such as site selection and layout method, planning and design, construction technology, building materials, hydraulic technology, etc. 
Management innovation value The construction and operation of water conservancy heritage will also form unique management system and regulations 
Humanistic innovation value The construction of water conservancy projects often relies on the excellent spiritual qualities of the builders, such as emancipating the mind, self-reliance, and the arduous of arduous struggle 
Heritage value Sustainable utilization value The main body of water conservancy projects can continue to be used now and in the future 
Spiritual heritage value The completion of the water conservancy heritage project cultivates rich spiritual culture, which has their own characteristics and far-reaching influence 
Academic research value The research value and education leading value of water conservancy heritage in academic research and publicity 
First-level indexSecond-level indicatorThe specific meaning of the indicator
Engineering value Engineering benefit value The benefits of water supply, irrigation, and power generation 
 Engineering exemplary value Innovations and breakthroughs in the construction process of water conservancy projects, such as scientific design, construction technology, landscape design, and harmonious planning 
Engineering historical value Major events and outstanding figures with far-reaching influence 
Economic value Environment-improving value The water conservancy project has significantly improved the local environmental conditions, which, in turn, has promoted the rapid development of the local economy 
Life-enhancing value The use of water conservancy projects either solves the local water problem, provides convenient transportation, or both, greatly improves the local living conditions 
Production-promoting value Water conservancy projects have improved local production conditions and optimized the industrial structure 
Industry-integrating value The water conservancy heritage has comprehensively promoted the deep integration of local industries and further promoted the rapid development of various industries 
Social value Social stability value The water conservancy project has solved the flood disaster and related problems, and provided good guarantee for the stable development of the local society 
County governance value In the construction and management process of the water conservancy project, the local government has played an important guiding role and has also cultivated a large number of professional and management talents, which have promoted local social changes and improved the local governance level 
Regional cooperation value The operation and management of water conservancy project often requires coordination and cooperation between regions, strengthens the communication between regions, and promotes their learning and economic and cultural cooperation 
Population growth value The water conservancy project often promotes local economic, social and environmental development, thereby greatly contributing to rapid population growth 
Social impact value Water conservancy heritage often attracts many domestic and foreign tourists to visit and travel, thereby enhancing its social influence 
Ecological value Ecological service value The water conservancy project will have a significant positive impact on the water quality, water quantity, forest and grass coverage, soil erosion control, etc., in the surrounding area, thereby better improving the local ecological environment and realizing the harmonious coexistence of man and nature 
Environment friendly value The construction of auxiliary projects such as bank and slope protection and small dams, thus forming a multi-water system and a species-rich ecological environment and improving the local ecological quality 
Unique landscape value The unique natural landscape, cultural landscape, and landscape value of the water conservancy heritage 
Artistic value Architectural art value The harmonious integration of the water conservancy heritage and the surrounding environment can form the beautiful landscape with good artistic characteristics 
Antique artistic value There will be many well-protected historical relics affiliated in the water conservancy heritage. These historical relics have extremely high cultural relics and artistic values 
Spiritual artistic value The water conservancy heritage will drive many new industries and products, showing profound spiritual connotation and value 
Innovative value Technological innovation value The construction of water conservancy projects often creatively adopts new science and technology and methods under the limited conditions at that time, which has a pioneering, advanced and leading role in many aspects, such as site selection and layout method, planning and design, construction technology, building materials, hydraulic technology, etc. 
Management innovation value The construction and operation of water conservancy heritage will also form unique management system and regulations 
Humanistic innovation value The construction of water conservancy projects often relies on the excellent spiritual qualities of the builders, such as emancipating the mind, self-reliance, and the arduous of arduous struggle 
Heritage value Sustainable utilization value The main body of water conservancy projects can continue to be used now and in the future 
Spiritual heritage value The completion of the water conservancy heritage project cultivates rich spiritual culture, which has their own characteristics and far-reaching influence 
Academic research value The research value and education leading value of water conservancy heritage in academic research and publicity 

Based on the above research, this study constructs a comprehensive evaluation model of the value of water conservancy heritage based on the fuzzy comprehensive evaluation method. First, the expert evaluation method uses a modified hierarchical analysis (Purabi et al., 2022), which draws on the knowledge and experience of different experts and avoids the subjectivity of the results. Second, this study determines the weight coefficients of expert evaluation and public evaluation. In contrast to previous evaluations based only on expert knowledge, the model takes into account the role of the public in cultural construction, i.e., it comprehensively considers the influence of expert knowledge and public perception on the value of water conservancy heritage. In addition, the evaluation indexes do not require precise measurements and complex calculations in this study, and the findings do not vary greatly due to different interviewees. Therefore, as an evaluation method for water conservancy heritage, this method has the characteristics of easy operation, easy data availability and high operability, which can effectively evaluate the value of water conservancy heritage. Compared with the traditional method, this method has higher comprehensive analysis ability and better objective evaluation ability.

Empowerment method of expert knowledge

  • 1.

    Determine weight coefficients of the expert's knowledge

Based on the classification and description of the value of water conservancy heritage, this study invited experts in different professional fields and obtained their evaluation results. Considering the different professional levels of each expert, this paper collects the characteristic factor of n experts, such as the expert's qualification, professional title, year of work experience, judgment standard and familiarity with the problem and confidence in the judges (Tongxin et al., 2019), to score and obtain the expert weight coefficient.

Assuming that there are n experts, the calculation expression of the weight coefficient of the ith expert is as follows:
formula
(1)

In Equation (1), ai, bi, ci, di, ei and fi represent the expert's qualification, professional title, year of work experience, judgment standard, familiarity and confidence, respectively. The scoring standard of the corresponding factors is shown in Table 2.

  • 2.

    Construct judgment matrix

Table 2

The scoring standard of the characteristic factors of experts.

Serial numberReliability indicatorCharacteristic factorScore
Qualification Doctor, master, undergraduate 3, 2, 1 
Professional title high title, vice-senior title, middle title 3, 2, 1 
Year of work experience >15 years, 5–15 years, <5 years 3, 2, 1 
Judgment standard Theoretical analysis, literature analysis, intuitive analysis 3, 2, 1 
Familiarity Completely familiar, belongs to related major, completely unfamiliar 3, 2, 1 
Confidence Confident, more confident, average 3, 2, 1 
Serial numberReliability indicatorCharacteristic factorScore
Qualification Doctor, master, undergraduate 3, 2, 1 
Professional title high title, vice-senior title, middle title 3, 2, 1 
Year of work experience >15 years, 5–15 years, <5 years 3, 2, 1 
Judgment standard Theoretical analysis, literature analysis, intuitive analysis 3, 2, 1 
Familiarity Completely familiar, belongs to related major, completely unfamiliar 3, 2, 1 
Confidence Confident, more confident, average 3, 2, 1 

The equation for calculating the weight coefficient of expert knowledge is as follows:
formula
(2)
Assume that the index system contains m indicators, and n experts participate in the evaluation. The ith expert conducts an independent evaluation and gives the weight value of an indicator, denoted as vi (i = 1, 2…n). According to the 5-level scale assignment of the Likert scale (vi = 5, 4, 3, 2, 1), the final score of this indicator can be calculated by Equation (3) in the following:
formula
(3)

Finally, the score for each factor is obtained.

The judgment matrix can be used to judge the relative importance of each lower-level indictor associated with an upper-level index. This study combines the Saaty 1–9 scaling method (see Table 3) to define the judgment matrix and constructs a new judgment matrix based on the expert scoring results (Yao & Chuan, 2021).

Table 3

Scale and meaning of judgment matrix.

ScaleMeaning (Δ is the difference between the scores of the two factors)
The two factors are equally important (Δ = 0) 
0 < Δ < 0.15 
Compared with the two factors, the former is slightly more important than the latter (0.15 ≤ Δ < 0.3) 
0.3 ≤ Δ < 0.4 
Compared with the two factors, the former is significantly more important than the latter (0.4 ≤ Δ < 0.5) 
0.5 ≤ Δ < 0.6 
Compared with the two factors, the former is strongly important than the latter (0.6 ≤ Δ < 0.7) 
0.7 ≤ Δ < 0.8 
Compared with the two factors, the former is extremely important than the latter (0.8 ≤ Δ) 
Reciprocal If the judgment value of factor i and is, then the judgment value of j and i is  
ScaleMeaning (Δ is the difference between the scores of the two factors)
The two factors are equally important (Δ = 0) 
0 < Δ < 0.15 
Compared with the two factors, the former is slightly more important than the latter (0.15 ≤ Δ < 0.3) 
0.3 ≤ Δ < 0.4 
Compared with the two factors, the former is significantly more important than the latter (0.4 ≤ Δ < 0.5) 
0.5 ≤ Δ < 0.6 
Compared with the two factors, the former is strongly important than the latter (0.6 ≤ Δ < 0.7) 
0.7 ≤ Δ < 0.8 
Compared with the two factors, the former is extremely important than the latter (0.8 ≤ Δ) 
Reciprocal If the judgment value of factor i and is, then the judgment value of j and i is  

Matlab programming was adopted to find out the eigenvectors and eigenvalues of each factor, and the weight vector consistency was performed. The consistency index consistency ratio (CR) of the judgment matrix is calculated, and the consistency of the judgment matrix is considered acceptable when CR < 0.1.

Empowerment methods for public cognition

This paper adopts the objective weighting method to determine the index weight in the public evaluation. This method is mainly through standardization and dimensionless processing, that is, adopting translation to eliminate the influence of 0 on the later logarithm and calculating the weight of the evaluation index. Specific steps are as follows.

Suppose there are m evaluated items and n indicators, where is the value of the jth evaluation indicator of the ith evaluated item. The evaluation matrix is as follows:
formula
(4)
  • 1.

    Data processing

To eliminate the influence of dimension, it is necessary to standardize the data (i.e., negative numbers need to be non-negative processed). In addition, to avoid the meaningless logarithm when calculating the entropy value, the data are shifted by +0.01.

  • 2.
    Calculate the difference coefficient of the jth index.
    formula
    (5)

In Equation (11), , k> 0, 0 ≤ ej ≤ 1. The greater the difference in the index value , the greater the effect on the evaluation result. The smaller the entropy value ej, the greater the gj and the more important the index is.

  • 3.
    Calculate the entropy weight of the jth indicator.
    formula
    (6)

Comprehensive evaluation method of the value of water conservancy heritage

  • 1.

    Establish an evaluation index system

u1, u2, … , u7 are a matrix set of seven first-level indexes, namely, engineering value, economic value, social value, ecological value, artistic value, innovative value, and heritage value.

  • 2.

    Create a comment set

In this study, the evaluation results were divided into five grades, namely, the comment set = {highest, higher, average, lower, lowest}.

  • 3.

    Determine the membership matrix of indicators at all levels

Based on the data obtained from the questionnaire and by mapping the standard scores of question items to the comment set V (i.e., the frequency of comment grades corresponding to all question items in each second-level index), this study constructs the membership matrix of the second-level indicators. Besides, Ri is defined as the fuzzy relationship from the evaluation index set U to the comment set V.
formula
(7)
  • 4.

    Determine the weight set of indicators at all levels

The index weight set Ai is introduced, and is satisfied. According to the determination result of the index weight, the following equation can be obtained in this study.
formula
(8)
  • 5.

    Calculate the evaluation vectors of the first-level indicators u1, u2,,u7, respectively.

Transform the weight assignment set corresponding to the evaluation index set U into the fuzzy evaluation vector of the comment set V and assume it to be Bi, i = 1, 2, 3, …, 7, then:
formula
(9)
  • 6.
    Determine membership matrix RBi of the first-level index.
    formula
    (10)
  • 7.

    Calculate the evaluation vector Bi of the first-level index U

The vector B reflects the degree of membership to each category in the comment set V. According to the maximum membership principle, the level corresponding to the maximum value in the vector B is the evaluation result of the value of the water conservancy heritage.
formula
(11)

This study adopts the Μ(•, +) weighted average operator, which not only highlights the first-level indexes but also considers the contribution of each second-level indicators to the comprehensive evaluation. Therefore, an objective and comprehensive evaluation can be carried out.

  • 8.

    Calculate the evaluation value

The results of fuzzy comprehensive evaluation are de-fuzzified using the measurement scale H. The measurement scale H in this study adopts the value evaluation level, then . Then, the evaluation value Ei of the seven first-level indexes of water conservancy heritage is calculated and converted into the percentage value .
formula
(12)
The coefficient is introduced to effectively adjust the influence of expert knowledge and public cognition on the results (Xinpei et al., 2021). The solution equation for the coefficient is as follows:
formula
(13)

In Equation (19), z is the number of experts, m is the number of evaluation indicators, and satisfies . When the number of experts is small, the accuracy of the evaluation results based on expert knowledge will be lower, so the evaluation weight based on public cognition weight needs to be considered as much as possible. When the number of experts is large, the accuracy is higher, and the weight of expert knowledge is relatively more important at this time.

Combining the evaluation results of expert knowledge and public cognition, this research obtains the equation of comprehensive evaluation in the following.
formula
(14)

Introduction to the Red Flag Canal

This paper takes one of the first batches of national water conservancy heritages – Red Flag Canal – as an example. The main body of the Red Flag Canal is located in Linzhou City, Henan Province. Since ancient times, Linzhou has suffered from drought, and the disaster is very serious. The history of its water conservancy projects can be traced back to the Tianping Canal in the Yuan Dynasty, the Ming Xie Gong Canal, and the Anti-Japanese Canal, Aimin Canal and Hehua Canal before liberation. Until 1960, the people of Linzhou spent 10 years relying on hammers, drills and hands to level 1,250 hills, erect 151 aqueducts, dig 211 tunnels, build 12,408 buildings and excavate 22.25 million cubic meters of earth and stone. Finally, they built the Red Flag Canal, known as ‘the Eighth Wonder of the World’ and ‘man-made heavenly river’, on the Tai-hang Mountains, which became a monument in the history of water conservancy in China.

The total length of the main canal and the first, second and third canals of Red Flag Canal is 168.8 km, and there are 10 major projects built on the canal, such as Canal Head Diversion Project, Qingnian Cave, Hollow Dam, Shikong Aqueduct, Diversion Gate, Taoyuan Ferry Bridge, Hongying Confluence, Duofeng Aqueduct, Shuguang Cave, Shuguang Aqueduct, etc. The Red Flag Canal creatively uses canals joining reservoir-type irrigation system, forming the mature-supporting irrigation system including ‘induction, storage, lifting, irrigation, drainage, electricity, landscape’ with the main canal and branch canals as the backbone. The irrigation system fully demonstrates its technological leadership, comprehensive engineering, social and economic benefits, and cultural exemplarity. At present, the Red Flag Canal has become the major historical and cultural site protected at the national level, the national water regimen education base, the national demonstration base for primary and secondary school education, a national Official Clearance Education base, and the national AAAAA tourist attraction. It continues to perform well in engineering value, economic value, social value, ecological value, artistic value, innovative value and heritage value.

Comprehensive evaluation of the value of the Red Flag Canal

Determination of indicator weights

In November 2021, based on statistical yearbooks of the Red Flag Canal, this study classifies and analyzes its value. Then, 14 experts from different fields, such as water conservancy, history and culture, landscape and ecology, and economic and social management, were selected. Thirteen are professors (including 2 second-level professors) and 1 is an associate professor. After reading the relevant materials in detail, the experts scored various values of the Red Flag Canal according to their professional judgment. Subsequently, we conduct expert empowerment based on the modified AHP method.

In December 2021, this study conducted a questionnaire survey to the public in Henan Province and made a supplementary survey in areas outside Henan Province. A total of 502 questionnaires were distributed, all of which were recovered and valid. SPSS 26.0 was adopted to test the reliability and validity of the collected questionnaires. The results showed that the Cronbach's α value of the questionnaire scale was above 0.9, the KMO value was all greater than 0.7, and the statistical value passed the Bartlett test, so the questionnaire design was effective. Then, this study standardizes the obtained data and adopts the entropy method to weigh the public evaluation. The weighting results of the two methods are shown in Table 4.

Table 4

Index weights of the value evaluation system of the Red Flag Canal.

First-level indexAHP weight coefficient (%)Weight coefficient of entropy method (%)Second-level indicatorAHP weight coefficient (%)Weight coefficient of entropy method (%)
Engineering value 23.18 8.48 Engineering benefit value 31.19 27.46 
Engineering exemplary value 19.76 40.14 
Engineering historical value 49.05 32.40 
Economic value 16.38 13.77 Environment-improving value 38.73 18.05 
Life-enhancing value 13.97 30.20 
Production-promoting value 19.81 28.86 
Industry-integrating value 27.48 22.89 
Social value 11.67 26.32 Social stability value 32.00 11.32 
County governance value 18.67 19.84 
Regional cooperation value 14.33 34.43 
Population growth value 10.78 19.18 
Social impact value 24.22 15.24 
Ecological value 2.97 13.81 Ecological service value 31.19 31.22 
Environment friendly value 19.76 42.21 
Unique landscape value 49.05 26.56 
Artistic value 9.29 15.69 Architectural art value 19.76 26.51 
Antique artistic value 31.19 37.35 
Spiritual artistic value 49.05 36.14 
Innovative value 6.54 12.63 Technological innovation value 31.19 25.99 
Management innovation value 19.76 48.43 
Humanistic innovation value 49.05 25.58 
Heritage value 29.97 9.29 Sustainable utilization value 19.76 39.05 
Spiritual heritage value 49.05 28.18 
Academic research value 31.19 32.77 
First-level indexAHP weight coefficient (%)Weight coefficient of entropy method (%)Second-level indicatorAHP weight coefficient (%)Weight coefficient of entropy method (%)
Engineering value 23.18 8.48 Engineering benefit value 31.19 27.46 
Engineering exemplary value 19.76 40.14 
Engineering historical value 49.05 32.40 
Economic value 16.38 13.77 Environment-improving value 38.73 18.05 
Life-enhancing value 13.97 30.20 
Production-promoting value 19.81 28.86 
Industry-integrating value 27.48 22.89 
Social value 11.67 26.32 Social stability value 32.00 11.32 
County governance value 18.67 19.84 
Regional cooperation value 14.33 34.43 
Population growth value 10.78 19.18 
Social impact value 24.22 15.24 
Ecological value 2.97 13.81 Ecological service value 31.19 31.22 
Environment friendly value 19.76 42.21 
Unique landscape value 49.05 26.56 
Artistic value 9.29 15.69 Architectural art value 19.76 26.51 
Antique artistic value 31.19 37.35 
Spiritual artistic value 49.05 36.14 
Innovative value 6.54 12.63 Technological innovation value 31.19 25.99 
Management innovation value 19.76 48.43 
Humanistic innovation value 49.05 25.58 
Heritage value 29.97 9.29 Sustainable utilization value 19.76 39.05 
Spiritual heritage value 49.05 28.18 
Academic research value 31.19 32.77 

In this study, experts were assigned weights according to the improved AHP method. The results of the evaluation of the value of the Red Flag Canal based on expert knowledge are as follows: the four parts, such as heritage value (29.97%), engineering value (23.18%), economic value (16.38%) and social value (11.67%), are the main components of the value of the Red Flag Canal. Meanwhile, the public evaluation was assigned by the entropy weight method and the survey sample was representative. The results of the evaluation of the value of the Red Flag Canal based on public cognition are as follows: the value of the Red Flag Canal mainly includes social value (26.32%), artistic value (15.69%), ecological value (13.81%), economic value (13.77%) and innovative value (12.63%).

In addition, experts and the public have different emphases on the understanding of each indicator, which is consistent with the views of scholars. For example, in terms of the value of engineering value, the experts focused more on the historical contribution of the project with a weight of 49.05%, while the public pay more attention to the exemplary value of the project with a weight of 40.14%. This is due to the fact that experts generally focus on the professional, historical and inheritance values of water heritage, while the public focuses more on exemplary values, etc. Both need to be taken into account, as expert knowledge and public cultural identity are key to constructing the value assessment system for water conservancy heritage.

Comprehensive evaluation

This study introduces AHP and the entropy weight method to determine the weight and then adopts the fuzzy comprehensive evaluation method to evaluate the value of the Red Flag Canal.

  • 1.
    The comprehensive evaluation result of the value of the Red Flag Canal based on expert knowledge is . Meanwhile, the evaluation results of experts on engineering value, economic value, social value, ecological value, artistic value, innovative value and heritage value are, respectively, given below.
    formula
  • 2.
    The comprehensive evaluation result of the value of the Red Flag Canal based on public cognition is . Similarly, the evaluation results of the public on engineering value, economic value, social value, ecological value, artistic value, innovative value and heritage value are, respectively, given below.
    formula
  • 3.
    First, calculate the adjustment coefficient through Equation (19), so that the weight coefficient of the expert is 0.7, and that of the public is 0.3. Second, the value of the Red Flag Canal is calculated according to Equation (14). Finally, the comprehensive evaluation results of the value of the Red Flag Canal are obtained, which is . And the comprehensive evaluation results on engineering value, economic value, social value, ecological value, artistic value, innovative value and heritage value are as follows.
    formula

This study constructs a comprehensive evaluation model of the value of water conservancy heritage based on the fuzzy comprehensive evaluation method and evaluates the value of the Red Flag Canal. The results show that the overall value of the Red Flag Canal evaluated by experts is 94.28 points, which is at a high level, with the highest heritage value, followed by the engineering value, and the lowest artistic value. The overall value of the Red Flag Canal evaluated by the public is 94.84 points, which is also at a high level, with the highest heritage value, followed by the engineering value, and the lowest artistic value. The overall value of the Red Flag Canal is 94.68, which reached a high level. Meanwhile, the scores of engineering value and heritage value are higher than the overall value of the Red Flag Canal. While the scores of the rest are all lower than the overall value of the Red Flag Canal, they all reach a relatively high level. As one of the large-scale water conservancy projects in Henan Province, the Red Flag Canal has been running continuously for more than 50 years, and it still plays an irreplaceable and important role in water diversion, irrigation, power generation and ecology. It also has cultivated an excellent spiritual wealth, namely, the Red Flag Canal spirit, which carries out continuous education for the people, so the heritage value of the Red Flag Canal is the highest. Since its completion, the Red Flag Canal has effectively improved the living environment of local people and promoted the rapid development of local economy and society, playing a huge role in the engineering value. In addition, the main task of the construction of the Red Flag Canal is to bring a stable water source to the locals, overcome the problem of water shortage and thus improve the natural environment and living and production conditions. In other words, cultural elements are not considered much in its planning and design, and its landscape, ecology and culture are relatively weak, so its artistic value is low.

In addition, as the strong support for the economic and social development of Linzhou City, the Red Flag Canal undertakes the task of agricultural irrigation and water supply. Great changes have taken place in agriculture, business, construction and transportation in the area, the grain processing and fruit processing industries are booming, and the series of products under the brand of ‘Red Flag Canal’ are sold at home and abroad. The Red Flag Canal has improved the production conditions of local people, boosted economic and industrial integration development, further optimized the industrial structure, and ultimately improved people's living standards. These have laid a solid foundation for the local people to build beautiful villages and implement the rural revitalization strategy. In addition, the development of the local tourism industry has gradually realized the conversion of the Red Flag Canal from spiritual wealth to material wealth, helping to build a tourism development pattern of ‘three colors together, three domains together, multi-industry integration’. Through planning, curriculum development and route design, the local people have formed a new industry of Red Flag Canal tourism + study, education, agriculture, ecology and leisure. On the whole, the comprehensive value of the Red Flag Canal is relatively high.

Based on the ‘The Guidelines for Declaration of National Water Conservancy Heritage’, this study constructs an index system for water conservancy heritage value assessment, which comprehensively reflects the value of water conservancy heritage and provides a more scientific and unified criterion for its evaluation. And a comprehensive evaluation model of the value of water conservancy heritage was constructed based on the fuzzy comprehensive evaluation method. Meanwhile, an improved hierarchical analysis was used in the expert evaluation to better consider the knowledge and experience of different experts, thus avoiding the subjectivity of the evaluation results. Moreover, the adjustment coefficients of expert evaluation and public evaluation were determined, i.e., the influence of both expert knowledge and public perception on the evaluation results was taken into account.

The results show that the overall value of the Red Flag Canal evaluated by experts is 94.28 points, which is at a high level, with the highest heritage value, followed by the engineering value, and the lowest artistic value; while that evaluated by the public is 94.84 points, which is also at a high level, with the highest heritage value, followed by the engineering value, and the lowest artistic value. In addition, the overall value of the Red Flag Canal is 94.68, which reached a high level. The scores of engineering value and heritage value are higher than the overall value of the Red Flag Canal, while that of the rest (which all reach a relatively high level) are all lower than the overall value of the Red Flag Canal. The results are consistent with assessment results that the Red Flag Canal competed with many participants and was successfully the country's first batch of national water heritage, thus verifying the validity of the model in this study. And compared with the traditional method, the model in this study has higher comprehensive analysis ability and better objective evaluation ability.

The index system constructed in this study has developed the theory of the value evaluation of water conservancy heritage to a certain extent, but there are still some limitations, such as the second-level indexes do not completely cover the value of all heritage, and the case study part is only based on the Red Flag Canal, which has some degree of specificity. However, this study is an exploration of the value evaluation of water conservancy heritage, which can provide ideas for further research on the value evaluation models applicable to different characteristics of water conservancy heritage in the future; we will expand the scope of the study and conduct a comparison among water conservancy heritage to further improve the study.

This study was supported by the Henan Province Soft Science Research Project (Project No. 212400410038).

Data cannot be made publicly available; readers should contact the corresponding author for details.

The authors declare there is no conflict.

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