Environmental impact assessments of the Xiaolangdi Reservoir on the most hyperconcentrated laden river, Yellow River, China

Alistair Borthwick, Chiyuan Miao, Dongxian Kong, Jingwen Wu, Qingyun Duan, Xiaoming Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Yellow River is the most hyper-concentrated sediment-laden rivers in the world. Throughout recorded history, the Lower Yellow River (LYR) experienced many catastrophic flood and drought events. To regulate the LYR, a reservoir was constructed at Xiaolangdi that became operational in the early 2000s. An annual water-sediment regulation scheme (WSRS) was then implemented, aimed at flood control, sediment reduction, regulated water supply, and power generation. This study examines the eco-environmental and socio-environmental impacts of Xiaolangdi Reservoir. In retrospect, it is found that the reservoir construction phase incurred huge financial cost and required large-scale human resettlement. Subsequent reservoir operations affected the local geological environment, downstream riverbed erosion, evolution of the Yellow River delta, water quality, and aquatic biodiversity. Lessons from the impact assessment of the Xiaolangdi Reservoir are summarized as follows: (1) the construction of large reservoirs is not merely an engineering challenge, but must also be viewed in terms of resource exploitation, environmental protection, and social development; (2) long-term systems for monitoring large reservoirs should be established, and decision makers involved at national policy and planning levels must be prepared to react quickly to the changing impact of large reservoirs; and (3) the key to solving sedimentation in the LYR is not Xiaolangdi Reservoir but instead soil conservation in the middle reaches of the Yellow River basin. Proper assessment of the impacts of large reservoirs will help promote development strategies that enhance the long-term sustainability of dam projects.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental science and pollution research
Early online date3 Nov 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Nov 2016


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