RECAST Urumqi - Subproject "Water"

Facilitation of Sustainable Megacity Development through Water Resource Efficiency

A subproject of:
RECAST Urumqi – Meeting the Resource Efficiency Challenge in a Climate Sensitive Dryland Megacity Environment - Urumqi as a Model City for Central Asia

Project description
Übersichtskarte mit Urumqi

Survey map of China with Urumqi
(Source: adopted and modified from CIA Factbook, public domain)

Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and ancient centre of trade along the historic Silk Road in Northwest China, has experienced an enormous population and economic development and growth since the 1950s and has become a Mega-City with 4 million inhabitants in the larger agglomeration. The city is situated between the fringe of the Gurbantünggüt Desert and the foothills of the Tianshan Mountains, which supply the urban agglomeration with water resources. [read more]


As Urumqi City as a whole, stretching from the Dabancheng Corridor to the desert fringe, is too large for detailed research and technical implementation, the research area of the project will be limited to the district Midong northeast of the city, which is still in a development stage.

Water Cycle Model

Water and pollutant flow in the Urumqi region (Source: RECAST Urumqi Project Proposal 2007)

The growing economy and population already consume in excess of the existing water resources and over exploit groundwater resources. Little water remains to wash out pollutants and contamination produced by living, industry and agriculture, which accumulate in the Gurbantünggüt Desert and are carried back to the urban area by the frequent North and Northwest winds.

Additionally, the actual and future climate change is projected to severely affect these semi-arid regions, where small changes in climatic conditions have large consequences for the inhabitability and distribution of water resources. At the moment, Urumqi benefits from the Tianshan Mountains as a climate barrier and storage area for water resources, but due to the changes in precipitation and less storage in glaciers, ice and snow fields, water availability will not match with the vegetation period and an increasing amount of water may be lost to evaporation in the future.

Schwerpunkte des Projekts

Structure overview task group "Water Resources Efficiency" (Source: RECAST Urumqi Project Proposal 2007)

The goal of the task group water resources is to analyse the actual situation and consumption of water resources, to develop a water conservation strategy fort he sustainable use and to implement this optimization. The task group is therefore divided into three subprojects

Satellitenaufnahme mit räumlicher Verortung

The location of Urumqi and Midong on the foothills of the Tianshan Mountains
(Source: Landsat ETM+ Data; Design Katharina Fricke)

Subproject 1

Remote sensing of hydrological state
(Patrick Klenk, Institute of Environmental Physics, Heidelberg)

Assessment of the hydrological state and monitor its future development with remote sensing tools and GPR (ground penetrating radar), apply these tools to develop a proxy index for seasonal and annual variation and quantify the impact of regional changes.

  • Measuring near-surface soil moisture at the field scale - Ground Penetrating Radar in a Remote Sensing Context (P. Klenk)

Subproject 2

Development of water efficiency and conservation strategy
(Katharina Fricke und Yuan Yao, Institute of Geography, Heidelberg)

Development of a water resources information and control management system, based on a descriptive hydrological model including input information from subproject 1 and data from our Chinese partners, presentation of a water conservation strategy and identification of starting points and potentials for the implementation of technical solutions for water conservation.

  • Analysis of the ecological and hydrological environment and development of a descriptive hydrologic model (K. Fricke)
  • Water resources management information system for Urumqi (Y. Yao)

Subproject 3

Local implementation of technical solutions in the Midong District

Development of technical solutions based on the potentials identified by the subproject 2 and control variables provided by subproject 1 and implementation of specialized solutions.



Chinese cooperation partners:

  • Prof. Dr. ZHANG Jiebin (Institute of Ecology and Geography, CAS Xinjiang): Leader of the task group water on the Chinese side
  • Prof. Dr. ZHOU Kefa (Institute of Ecology and Geography, CAS Xinjiang): Supervision of two Chinese PhD students working in the field of GPR and remote sensing
  • Prof. Dr. JIANG Huifang (College for Water Conservancy and Civil Engineering, Xinjiang Agricultural University): Researcher for hydrological modeling
  • Dr. CHEN Ping (Xinjiang Academy for Environmental Protection Sciences, XJAEPS): DAAD-scholar, expert for waste water treatment and reuse
  • WU Yunyun (Wasserbüro Urumqi): Senior engineer, expert for water supply and consumption in Urumqi City
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Latest Revision: 2015-07-08
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