Water resources in North China have declined sharply in recent years. Low runoff (especially in the mountain areas) has been identified as the main factor. Hutuo River Basin (HRB), a typical up-stream basin in North China with two subcatchments (Ye and Hutuo River Catchments), was investigated in this study. Mann-Kendall test was used to determine the general trend of precipitation and runoff for 1960–1999. Then Sequential Mann-Kendall test was used to establish runoff slope-break from which the beginning point of sharp decline in runoff was determined. Finally, regression analysis was done to illustrate runoff decline via comparison of precipitation-runoff correlation for the period prior to and after sharp runoff decline. This was further verified by analysis of rainy season peak runoff flows. The results are as follows: (1) annual runoff decline in the basin is significant while that of precipitation is insignificant at α=0.05 confidence level; (2) sharp decline in runoff in Ye River Catchment (YRC) occurred in 1968 while that in Hutuo River Catchment (HRC) occurred in 1978; (3) based on the regression analysis, human activity has the highest impact on runoff decline in the basin. As runoff slope-breaks in both Catchments strongly coincided with increase in agricultural activity, agricultural water use is considered the dominate factor of runoff decline in the study area.

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