Water Management
and Climate Change

The Jinsha River Basin in China:
on the way to a success story

Learn more about the impacts of climate change and socio-economic development on water resources. And how useful tools and products pave the way to a thorough planning of adaptation measures which will contribute to the sustainable long-term development of a region. Explore the Sino-Swiss Jinsha River Basin project in China.

Tools and Products

Project Background

The Yangtze River Basin is the socio-economic powerhouse of China. The upper reach of the Yangtze River is called Jinsha River. In the last 2-3 decades, the Jinsha River Basin has experienced warmer temperatures and increasing extreme events such as flooding and drought, causing significant economic loss. At the same time, different sectors and stakeholders are very sensitive to water issues and climate change: Industry, residential areas, hydropower, agriculture, ecosystems and tourism.

A Sino-Swiss cooperation project

To build a solid foundation to improve the overall water resource management in the Jinsha River Basin and to adapt successfully to climate change and socio-economic development, Switzerland and China have launched this project. Lijiang, located in the north-western part of Yunnan Province, serves as a pilot region where the current water situation and their trends are analyzed. Switzerland and China have been cooperating for over ten years in the areas of water management and climate change. Both countries are severely affected by the impacts of climate change on water resources.

Use the map and find out more about the Jinsha River Basin and its challenges!

  • Yangtze
  • Jinsha River Basin

Jinsha River

The Jinsha River has its source in the Tibetan Plateau and runs mainly through Qinghai, Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces in the south-west of China. The Jinsha River drains 26% of the total catchment area of Yangtze River.

Yangtze River

With its 6,000+ km, the Yangtze River is the longest river in China and the third longest in the world. Its basin covers an area of 1.7 million km2, encompassing about one fifth of China’s total territory.

Jinsha River Basin

In the Jinsha River Basin the local water regime is greatly influenced by glacier and snow melt runoff and climatic variability. In recent years, extreme events like floods and droughts have increased. Climate change has significant impact on water resources and biological diversity.


Lijiang City, pilot region of the project, has experienced increasing water crises in the last 2-3 decades: Spring water ponds and river courses have started to dry up. The degradation of the riverine ecology is increasing. At the same time, the demand for water, especially in agriculture and tourism, is growing.


The long-term project objective consists of the improvement of the integrated water resources management for the Jinsha River Basin under conditions of changing climate and social-economic development. Therefore, it will be effective in protecting life and assets, ensuring water security in the region, contributing to the sustainable development of the Chinese economy, and to a source of learning for global water and climate change discussion.

The main purpose of this initial three year project phase is to create a foundation of integrated water management tools and products in this region for the future. Therefore, the main objectives are to:

    • Substantially improve knowledge of water dynamics and aquatic ecosystems in the Jinsha River Basin;
    • Identify impacts of climate change on water resources and extreme events;
    • Develop adaptation strategies and measures for water resources and extreme events considering aquatic ecosystems;
    • Exchange knowledge and expertise on water resources management and climate change adaptation between Chinese and Swiss experts, and disseminate to the international community.

Sectors and Stakeholders

In the Jinsha River Basin different sectors and stakeholders are affected by climate and socio-economic change. Today, all these sectors and stakeholders strongly depend on water. The Jinsha River Basin Project aims at a sustainable balance between water supply and demand in the future for these sectors.

Residential areas

Residential areas

Urbanization and population growth are a strong trend in China and in the Jinsha River Basin. The increasing number of urban dwellers leads to a higher water demand and consumption. Proper and sustainable management of water supply and demand will ease tensions and conflicts in the future.




The region maintains a strong agricultural focus. Tobacco is the main export product, mainly in Yunnan and Sichuan Provinces. The livelihood of the majority of the rural population is highly dependent on agriculture and thus vulnerable to the effects of droughts and floods. Given the high demand on water for traditional irrigation, this project will indirectly affect their well-being and vulnerability.




Massive investments in hydropower are planned and implemented by the Chinese government in this region. 42 cascade hydropower stations are planned and partly constructed in the Jinsha River Basin along the main stream and the Yalong river, which will influence the hydrology of the entire basin. Some trends predict less water in the future, thus electricity production is expected to decrease. The project will contribute to an optimization of the operational management of the hydropower reservoirs that matches the needs of all water pillars.




Humankind benefits in many ways from ecosystems. Ecosystems in the region ensure important services such as flood mitigation, water purification, fish habitats as well as recreational and cultural functions. Changes in temperature and precipitation will largely affect ecosystems which will result in adverse impacts on human beings. Appropriate water resource management will help to prevent that.




The main manufacturing industries are heavy industries such as coal, iron, steel and copper production. These industries are growing fast. Their production depends heavily on water. Appropriate water resource management can secure the water supply for those users, and on the other hand, manage the risk associated with water pollution, which is critical for other water users.




Tourism is a growing business sector in the Jinsha River Basin, especially in the Lijiang area where the ancient town has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Higher water demand for tourism is expected in the future. The project aims to achieve a sustainable future balance between water supply and demand in the region.


Tools and Products

To foster integrated water management, we improved the knowledge of water characteristics, extreme events and aquatic ecosystems in the Jinsha River Basin substantially. With this as a baseline, we identified impacts of climate change and socio-economic development on water resources and extreme events. As a third step, we worked out adaptation strategies and measures. Explore our tools and products!

Know more about Water Characteristics, Extreme Events and Aquatic Ecosystems

Know more about Water Characteristics, Extreme Events and Aquatic Ecosystems

learn more

Predict Runoff, Prevent Flooding: A Forecasting Model

Predict Runoff, Prevent Flooding: A Forecasting Model

learn more

Water Supply and Demand: An Evaluation and Planning Tool

Water Supply and Demand: An Evaluation and Planning Tool

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Glacier and Snow Melt Monitoring Capability Improved

Glacier and Snow Melt Monitoring Capability Improved

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Impacts of Climate Change on Water Supply and Extreme Events

Impacts of Climate Change on Water Supply and Extreme Events

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Adaptation Strategies and Measures for the Future

Adaptation Strategies and Measures for the Future

learn more

Conferences and Publications

Are you interested in knowing more about the Jinsha River Basin Project? Check out the presentations of the conferences about the project or read our publications:


  • InterPraevent International Conference,
    June 2016, Lucerne, Switzerland
  • 7th Sino-Swiss High-Level Dialogue on Water Management,
    August 2016, Beijing, China
  • JRB Mid-term Conference,
    November 2016, Lijiang, China
  • 9th International Perspective on Water Resources and the Environment Conference,
    January 2017 Wuhan, China


  • Hydrology and Earth System Science,
    January 2017; Use of a representative meteorological drought index to detect historical events in the Lower Jinsha River Basin (China); CREALP, e-dric.ch, Geotest, CRSRI
  • Movie about the project

Project partners

Jinsha River Basin project is a Sino-Swiss cooperation involving the public and private sectors of both countries.

Sino-Swiss Steering Committee
Chinese Partners
Swiss Partners



Concept, Content & Webdesign
EBP Schweiz AG
Cornelia Büttner + Monika Rohner
Zollikerstrasse 65
CH-8702 Zollikon

Technical implementation
Robert Baumgartner
Carrer d’Ali Bei 7, 2-2
ES-08010 Barcelona

© 2017 EBP

Liability limitations
The content of this website was created with reasonable care. However, EBP Schweiz AG does not guarantee the accuracy of information from third parties. Links to other websites are not under the control of EBP Schweiz AG.

Know more about Water Characteristics, Extreme Events and Aquatic Ecosystems

As a fundamental basis for integrated water management, knowledge about water characteristics, water-related natural extreme events and aquatic ecosystem in the Jinsha River Basin is crucial. We improved this knowledge substantially.

Better knowledge of hydro-meteorological characteristics

We collected and analyzed the hydro-meteorological data for the region from the last 50 years in order to gain a better understanding of the water characteristics under different climate conditions in the past. In particular, we compiled and analyzed daily meteorological data (precipitation, minimum, average and maximum temperature) of 45 stations (31 of which were within the basin) and data from 5 hydrological stations (daily discharges).

The legendary first bend of Yangtze River near Shigu in Yunnan Province.

An important aspect of this work has been the elaboration of the HydroAnalysis package, a structured R-tool developed specifically for the project to apply different data analyses: basic statistics calculation, frequency, trends and drought analyses.

In general, we identified no trends in the duration, magnitude or intensity of short, medium and long term drought events. However, a certain increasing trend in the number of rainy days per year has been detected for some of the stations in the upper part of the Jinsha River Basin, and a reducing trend in stations in the lower part.

Overview of historical extreme events

Water-related natural extreme events can strongly influence water resource management. The occurrence, magnitude and consequences of such events have to be analyzed and understood in order to create a foundation for a thorough planning of adaptation measures and the long-term development of the region. For this, we developed a web-based natural hazard event registration platform for the Jinsha River Region. It can be used for both event data registration or browsing registered events. Collected data and information for about 60 events of different natural disaster types (floods, droughts, debris flows and landslides) have so far been registered in this platform, including information sources, affected areas, duration, spatial and temporal distribution, damage and financial loss.

We have set up a database for extreme events to record severe floodings like the ones in China in July 2016

Check out the results of the study: Factsheet Understanding the Characteristics of Historical Extreme Events

Analysis of aquatic ecosystems

In recent years, the aquatic ecosystem of the Jinsha River has experienced significant changes due to the construction of hydropower stations. Furthermore, coldwater fish species which are widely distributed in the Jinsha River will be increasingly under pressure due to climate change. Therefore, research has been carried out with a special focus on the fish communities and habitats. The results provide detailed information on the diversity of aquatic organisms, current ecosystem health levels and the vulnerability of the aquatic ecosystem, indicating needs for ecosystem protection and restoration.

The current condition of the aquatic ecosystem in the Jinsha River has been analyzed in order to provide information about the phytoplankton, zooplankton, zoobenthos and – with a special focus – the fish. The quality of fish habitats in different river sections was assessed by using a Fish Index of Biological Integrity (IBI).

The results show that today’s aquatic ecosystems in the area manifest high biodiversity. However, coldwater fish species are very sensitive to climate change and impacts of hydropower. Thus, sustainable adaptation and protection measures in the Jinsha River Basin need to be implemented.

In the Jinsha River Basin, coldwater fish species are very sensitive to climate change and the impacts of hydropower.

Check out the results of the study: Factsheet Overview of Aquatic Ecosystem in Jinsha River

Predict Runoff, Prevent Flooding: A Forecasting Model

In the past and future decades, numerous hydropower reservoirs have been and will be built in the Jinsha River Basin. As part of the analysis of the water characteristics of the region, we elaborated a hydro-meteorological forecasting model in which the large reservoirs are integrated.

With respect to the runoff prediction and flood prevention requirements, we established a hydro-meteorological forecasting model. The model has been incorporated into the existing forecasting system of the Changjiang Water Resources Commission (CWRC). The results can provide data reference and a decision-making basis for CWRC to command flood prevention, and hence enhance the commission’s capability in terms of runoff prediction and flood prevention management.

We included data from almost 400 rainfall gauging stations, over 70 discharge gauging stations and a dozen large reservoirs in the model. Real-time transfer of weather forecasting data from the Weather Research and Forecasting Model and the Bureau of Hydrology at CWRC to the database has been programmed. The so-called Routing System model is used for the entire Jinsha River, covering more than fifty forecasting points.

Runoff forecasts in different regions of the Jinsha River Basin are therefore possible, and operation of the reservoirs included can be optimized. Results from model runs will also be used to estimate impacts of climate change on the future water resource and hydropower production in the region.

Hydro-meteorological gauging station at Er Lake near Dali, as part of the forecasting system.

Check out the results of the study: Factsheet Hydro-meteorological Forecasting Model

Water Supply and Demand: An Evaluation and Planning Tool

Lijiang municipality is a fast-developing region in the Jinsha River Basin. A case study has addressed the challenges of water resources management in each town of Lijiang. Based on a water allocation model, the analysis and results give a detailed picture of the current and future water supply and demand situation of Lijiang, and indicate the needs for integrated water management measures.

The water allocation model reproduces the water supply and consumption status in Lijiang. This provides a fundamental basis for the future water resources planning for Lijiang.

In the model, we included more than sixty water supply infrastructures such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and about 270 water demand sites including agriculture, industry and drinking water.

With help of the model, future socio-economic and demographic trends can be assessed. Thus, a solid basis is given to the local authorities for sustainable decision-making regarding water resources management in the future.

The model could be duplicated to be used for other regions or cities in China.

A sequence of the water supply channel and irrigation system in Lijiang. Our work and studies will help to improve the water management system.

Check out the results of the study: Factsheet Water Resources Management in Lijiang

Glacier and Snow Melt Monitoring Capability Improved

Glaciers and seasonal snow cover in the Jinsha River Basin are important components of the water cycle. Therefore, the investigation of their current situation and changes is of high relevance.

Terrestrial glacier monitoring and satellite-based snow cover monitoring will improve the understanding of the status and dynamics of different factors such as snow melt, glacier melt, droughts, floods, and their impacts on the water resources in the region.

To increase climate change detection capability, we designed enhanced monitoring equipment for Yulong Snow Mountain. By using this equipment, the glacier monitoring capability will be significantly improved. Operation of the automatic glacier monitoring station can greatly reduce the manual measurement workload and improve monitoring efficiency.

Furthermore, we created a Snowmelt Runoff Model to analyze changes in snow cover of different altitudinal zones.

The two monitoring systems are important tools for the research team to record changes in glacier and snow melt, and to deliver true evidence for the public to understand climate change.

We designed and installed enhanced glacier monitoring equipment for Yulong Snow Mountain, to increase detection capability of climate change.

Check out the results of the study: Factsheet Snow and Glacier Monitoring System

Impacts of Climate Change on Water Supply and Extreme Events

What are the impacts of climate change on water supply and extreme events in the Jinsha River Basin? We analyzed these impacts based on climate change scenarios for temperature and precipitation. Water characteristics which we elaborated earlier served as a baseline.

Climate change scenarios

Scenarios describing expected climate change in the Jinsha River Basin are of critical importance to understand how climate change affects the sustainable use of water resources and extreme events such as floods and droughts. Based on a multiple general circulation model (GCM) and two statistical downscaling methods, we elaborated a set of climate change scenarios for temperature and precipitation covering the near and far future, and two greenhouse gas emission scenarios.

For the southern part of the region a temperature rise of 1 – 2°C in the near future and 1.5 – 5°C in the far future is expected. Whereas the trend towards higher temperatures is unambiguous, the precipitation trend is more uncertain. Most climate change scenarios show an increase in precipitation for the northern and middle part of the Jinsha River Basin, whereas the change for the southern part of the region is uncertain.

Check out the results of the study: Factsheet Climate Change Scenarios

Impacts on different sectors and stakeholders

For the entire Jinsha River Basin, we analyzed impacts of each climate change scenario on sectors like hydropower (e.g. electricity production), agriculture (e.g. crop suitability) and aquatic ecosystems (e.g. fish habitat quality). The impact assessment included extreme events (e.g. flood frequency, flood intensity, flash floods, agricultural and hydrological drought). Additionally, we have studied the impacts on industry, residential areas/tourism and agriculture for the Lijiang area, by analyzing water balance, identifying water deficits and considering future socio-economic trends.

Opportunities and challenges due to climate change have been identified and form the basis for adaptation strategies and measures.

Lijiang has experienced increasing water crises in the last 2-3 decades. River courses and ponds such as Black Dragon Pond have started to dry up.

Check out the results of the study:

Adaptation Strategies and Measures for the Future

Based on our analysis of the impacts of climate change and socio-economic development on water supply and extreme events in Jinsha River Basin, we will develop and assess adaptation strategies and measures to water resources management, flood control and drought relief.











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