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Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation 13 (2008) 2328–2336

Water resources planning based on complex system dynamics: A case study of Tianjin city
X.H. Zhang a, H.W. Zhang a, B. Chen
a b

b,* ,

G.Q. Chen c, X.H. Zhao



School of Environmental Science and Technology, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China State Key Joint Laboratory of Environmental Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China National Laboratory for Turbulence and Complex Systems, Department of Mechanics, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China Received 5 February 2007; received in revised form 10 April 2007; accepted 1 May 2007 Available online 27 June 2007

Abstract A complex system dynamic (SD) model focusing on water resources, termed as TianjinSD, is developed for the integrated and scientific management of the water resources of Tianjin, which contains information feedback that governs interactions in the system and is capable of synthesizing component-level knowledge into system behavior simulation at an integrated level, thus presenting reasonable predictive results for policy-making on water resources allocation and management. As for the Tianjin city, interactions among 96 components for 12 years are explored and four planning alternatives are chosen, one of which is based on the conventional mode assuming that the existing pattern of human activities will be prevailed, while the others are alternative planning designs based on the interaction of local authorities and planning researchers. Optimal mode is therefore obtained according to different scenarios when compared the simulation results for evaluation of different decisions and dynamic consequences. Ó 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
PACS: 89.65.Lm Keywords: System dynamics; Water resources; Strategic planning; Decision-making; Tianjin

1. Introduction The population growth and the economic expansion have been increasingly stimulate the demands for water supplies, which results in serious water shortage and water quality degradation in many cities of China. Effective planning and management for water resources has been one of the major concerns with regard to sustainable urban economic development. SD, proposed by Jay W. Forrester, aims at solving the simulating problems of large-scale systems by integrating systems theory, cybernetics, information theory and computer technology. SD method consists of

Corresponding author. Tel./fax: +86 10 62754280. E-mail address: (B. Chen).

1007-5704/$ - see front matter Ó 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.cnsns.2007.05.031

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dynamic simulation models embracing information feedbacks that govern interactions in a target system. Through simulating the development trends of the system and identifying the interrelations and information feedback relations of each factor of the system, the SD model can obtain more detail informations, which will be helpful for exploring the hidden mechanism and thus improving the performance of the total system. Since initially reported in 1960s, SD has been applied to global scale [1,2] and national and regional scales [3–9] systems with sustainability assessment. A better understanding of the significant contributors to urban water resources supply-demand balance and of the way the water resources system reacting to certain policy is necessary for the government to make proper decision. Water resources is an integral part of the socio-economic-environmental system, which is a complex artificial sub-ecosystem dominated by human. The study of sustainable water resource strategic planning should be conducted in view of general systems theory through dynamic interactions amongst the related social, economic, environmental, as well as regulatory factors, which are characterized by non-linear and multi-loop feedbacks. Due to the dynamic, multi-objective and multi-reaction characteristics of urban water resource system with cause–effect relationship dispersed in time and space scales, system dynamics (SD) was considered to be an appropriate method to illustrate the complex dynamics and analyze the relative implications of regulatory policies [1,2]. Researches in multi-objective planning of water resources [10], environmental planning of watershed [11], and urban water system planning [12] has been done in recent years. This study is an extension of the previous SD applications, focusing on the environment management of the urban complex socio-economic-environmental (SEE) system. A SD model as a case study is developed in this paper for the water resources strategic planning of Tianjin city, China. 2. Methodology 2.1. Concept of SD The SD model takes certain steps along the time axis in the simulation process. At the end of each step, the system variables denoting the state of the system are updated to represent the consequences resulting from the previous simulation step. Initial conditions are needed for the first time step. Variables representing flows of information and initials, arising as results of system activities and producing the related consequences are named as level variables (described as in the flow diagram) and rate variables (described as ), respectively. Auxiliary variable means the detailed steps by which information associated with current levels are transformed into rates to bring about future changes. In addition, the symbol represents the sinks or sources. Fig. 1 is a sample flow diagram for the total population, in which the total population (TP) is a level variable; birth population (BP), death population (DP), and net migrated population (NP) are rate variables; and birth rate (BR), death rate (DR), and net migration rate (NR) are auxiliary variables. How a SD level equation is related to the system’s dynamic variations is shown in Fig. 2. Three time points are denoted as J (past), K (present), and L (future). The step from J to K is referred to as JK and that from K to L as KL. The duration period between successive points is named DT. Therefore, a level variable could be

Birth population

Total population Death population

Birth rate

Net migration population

Death rate

Net migration rate

Fig. 1. Flow diagram for population subsystem.


X.H. Zhang et al. / Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation 13 (2008) 2328–2336

Time DT DT




Fig. 2. Sketch of the level equation.

referred to as LEVEL.J, LEVEL.K, or LEVEL.L at a time point, RATE.JK and RATE.KL will function in the duration period. 2.2. Steps of applying SD model to water resources planning The procedures for applying SD model to water resources planning are as follows: (a) Constructing SD model through analyses of the total system, and identifying whether the model can be in line with the real situations by the validity test and sensitivity analysis. Accordingly, parameters and relevance can be modified and confirmed. (b) Identifying the sensible point of the system relative to water resources supply-demand balance based on the results of the sensitivity analysis. In the real system, sensible points constitute the sensible set of points (SSP), and the contents of SSP of the target systems are different from each other. (c) Running the SD model based on the current situations (termed as base run), and then, based on the strategies of the master plan (termed as master plan running). Thus, it is possible to distinguish the state variables with significant differences during the original running and master plan running periods. Subsequently, the strategic sensible factors within the SSP can be determined. (d) Based on the strategic sensible factors, experiences of researchers and comments of decision-makers, the SD model can be run with different scenarios, and thus the optimal one can be decided. The optimal scenario can achieve the coordinated development of the society, economy and environment, and particularly, realize the water resources supply-demand balance in this study.

3. Case study of Tianjin city 3.1. Study area Tianjin is a municipality directly under the central government of China, located at latitude 38°34 0 –40°15 0 N and longitude 116°43 0 –118°4 0 E, and covers an area of 11,900 km2, 189 km long from south to north and 117 km wide from east to west. The annual rainfall is about 550 mm to 680 mm, 75% of which is concentrated in June, July and August. The water resource per capita in Tianjin is 160 m3/a, which is only about 7% of the average level in China. The total population of Tianjin in 2004 was 10.2367 million, with the gross domestic product (GDP) being 293.188 billion RMB and the GDP per capita 31.55 RMB in 2004. 3.2. Construction of the TianjinSD model The TianjinSD model is developed through examination of interactions among a number of system components, production of flow diagrams that link different subsystems, and formulation of SD modeling equations using a Professional Dynamo (PD) compatible language. The boundary of the TianjinSD model is the total administrative area of Tianjin city. The strategic planning period ranges from 2004 to 2015. The model includes four major subsystems, i.e., population subsystem,

X.H. Zhang et al. / Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation 13 (2008) 2328–2336


economy subsystem, water pollution control subsystem and water resources subsystem. The flow diagram for Tianjin city is shown in Fig. 3. The population subsystem is introduced here as an example of the total urban system. Population in Tianjin is divided into three groups as follows: (1) Agricultural and non-agricultural populations as level variables depending on the relevant birth and death rates. (2) Urban population converted from the agricultural population. (3) Net migrate population from external systems. The main PD compatible equations for population subsystem are as below: L; P:K ¼ P:J þ DTÃ ðBP:JK À DP:JK þ NM:JKÞ; R; BP:KL ¼ P:KÃ BR:K; R; R; N; C; A; DP:KL ¼ P:KÃ DR:K; NM:KL ¼ P:K NMR:K; P ¼ Pi; Pi ¼ 10:23; TWDDL:K ¼ EWDDLPÃ P:K

ð1Þ ð2Þ ð3Þ ð4Þ ð5Þ ð6Þ ð7Þ

where L is the level equation, R is rate equation; N is the initial assignment value for the L equation; A is auxiliary equation; C represents the base year assignment constant; P is population (level variable, unit: 10 000 persons); BP is birth population (level variable, unit: 10 000 persons/a); DP is death population (rate variable, unit: 10 000 persons/a); NM is net migrants from external systems (rate variable, unit: 10 000 persons/a); BR is birth rate of P (auxiliary variable); DR is dearth rate of P (auxiliary variable); NMR is net migration rate of P (auxiliary variable); TWDDL is total water demand for daily life (auxiliary variable, unit:













Fig. 3. Flow diagram for Tianjin SEE system.


X.H. Zhang et al. / Communications in Nonlinear Science and Numerical Simulation 13 (2008) 2328–2336

10 000 m3); EWDDLP is average water demand for daily life per capita (auxiliary variable, m3/person-a), and Pi is the total population in Tianjin 2004 (constant variable). 3.3. Verification and sensitive degree analysis of TianjinSD TianjinSD model was verified using the data of 1996–2004 by historical examination. The variables being examined include population (P), value added of industry (VAI), industrial water demand (IWD), value added of agriculture (VAA), and the total water demand in Tianjin (TWD). Table 1 shows the verification results, in which all the variables examined have low relative errors (<10%). A series of sensitivity analyses has been conducted to examine the system’s responses to variations of input parameters and/or their combinations. To quantify the sensitivity analyses, a concept of sensitivity degree is defined as follows: DQ ðtÞ X ðtÞ SQ ¼ ð8Þ Á QðtÞ DX ðtÞ where t is time; Q(t) denotes system state at time t; X(t) represents system parameter affecting the system state at time t; SQ is sensitivity degree of state Q to parameter X; and nQ(t) and nX(t) denote increments of state Q and parameter X at time t, respectively. For the n state variables (Q1, Q2, . . . , Qn), the general sensitivity degree of a parameter at time t can be defined as follows:
n 1 X S¼ : SQ n i¼1 i


where n denotes a number of state variables; S Qi is sensitivity degree of state Qi; and S is general sensitivity degree of the n states to the parameter X. For Tianjin city, seven variables are identified to represents the system states of the population growth, industrial development, and the water price, and 27 parameters are analyzed to examine their impacts on the system states. To examine the sensitivity degree of each state variable, each parameter is increased by 10% every three years over the study horizon of 2004–2015. Based on Eq. (8), four sensitivity degree values can be obtained for each parameter–variable pair, with the average value of them depicting the general sensitivity degree of the parameter to the variable. Further, according to Eq. (9), an average for all seven state variables can be calculated for each parameter, representing the general sensitivity degree of the six system states to the parameter. The result of the sensitivity degree analyses is shown in Fig. 4, where except the sensitivities of four parameters, i.e., NMR (net migration rate), AVI (added-value of industry), PVAIWC (per VAI water consumption) and RRSIW (rate of reaching the standard of industrial wastewater), are higher than 10%, while the others are lower than 10%, indicating the target system responds in a lower degree sensitivity to

Table 1 Verification results Year P (104) H 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 948 953 957 959 1001 1004 1007 1011 1024 S 948 954 960 965 971 977 983 989 995 R 0.001 0.003 0.006 0.030 0.027 0.024 0.022 0.028 VAI ð104 – Þ Y H 527 580 588 640 747 821 909 1136 1437 S 527 588 656 733 818 912 1018 1136 1300 R 0.014 0.117 0.144 0.094 0.111 0.120 0.000 0.095 IWD (104 m3) H 3.66 3.08 2.79 5.34 4.49 4.5 4.98 5.2 3.67 S 3.66 3.08 2.78 4.91 4.91 4.9 4.95 4.95 3.66 R 0.002 0.002 0.002 0.081 0.092 0.090 0.006 0.048 VAA ð104 – Þ Y H 68 69 74 71 74 79 84 90 105 S 68 71.4 74.97 77.97 80.31 84.32 88.54 92.97 97.61 R 0.028 0.013 0.098 0.092 0.073 0.054 0.037 0.07 TWD (104 m3) H 23.35 24.14 21.53 25.52 22.64 19.14 19.96 20.87 22.06 S 23 24 23 25 24 20 21 22 23 R 0.006 0.046 0.020 0.044 0.045 0.052 0.054 0.043

Note: H – historical data; S – simulated data; R – relative error (%).

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30 25 20 15 10 5 0


Sensitivity value(%)




Fig. 4. Results of sensitivity analyses.

most of the parameters. In addition, PNM, PVAIWC and RRSIW are identified as the system sensitive points (SSP) of the target system. 3.4. Decision alternatives of Tianjin water resources planning According to the SSP, the decision alternatives are introduced. The TianjinSD model is run for a period of 12 years with 2004 chosen as base year. Four alternatives are considered, one of which is the base run (TBR) assuming that the existing pattern of human activities will be kept in the future, whereas the others are strategic alternative planning designs provided by the local authorities focusing on the SSP variables, i.e., master plan running (MPR). MPR1 offers a balance between economic objective and water resources sustainable utilization; MPR2 focuses on rapid economic development that may lead to stresses on water supplies; MPR3 emphasizes on improving the water resource management, such as water pollution control, local water policy adjustment, and water resource allocation. Also, MPR1 to MPR3 all enhance the environmental invest rate. Meanwhile, the decision variables considered include industrial development, cropping areas, water management approach and migration policy. Table 2 presents the simulation results of the four planning alternatives. Fig. 5 shows the water resources supply-demand balance (water-supply ability divided by water-demand amount) in four alternatives. Fig. 6
Table 2 Major indices in simulation of the four planning alternatives (from 2004 to 2015) Alternatives TBR MPR 1 MPR 2 MPR 3 P (104) 1270 1170 1270 1270 I ð108 – Þ Y 5511 3024 7352 5956 S ð108 – Þ Y 5040 5040 5553 5447 A ð108 – Þ Y 165 165 174 168 O ð108 – Þ Y 613 337 817 662 GDP ð108 – Þ Y 11329 8566 13 896 12 233 PCI ð108 – Þ Y 113 94 153 183 B (%) 0.88 1.03 0.79 1.07 WI (%) 1.3 1.0 1.1 0.8

Notion: I: value-added of industry; S: value-added of the service industry; A: value-added of agriculture; O: value-added of other insectors; GDP: gross domestic product; B: water resources supply-demand balance; PCI: the investment using in water resources management and pollution control; WI: water pollution index; P: total population.

Supply-Demand index

1.2 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0
20 04 20 05 20 06 20 07 20 08 20 09 20 10 20 11 20 12 20 13 20 14 20 15

Fig. 5. Water resources supply-demand balance in four alternatives.


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water pollution index(/)

1.4000 1.2000 1.0000 0.8000 0.6000 0.4000 0.2000 0.0000
20 08 20 10 20 12 20 04 20 06

20 14

Fig. 6. Water pollution indices in four alternatives.

shows water pollution index (pollution discharged in 2015 divided by pollution discharged in 2004) in four alternatives. It is implicated in Table 2, Figs. 5 and 6 that the highest GDP will be achieved through implementing MPR 2, which results the lowest volume of the water supply – demand index as well as the highest volume of the water pollution index, and need the largest amount of fresh water and discharge the largest water contamination except TBS. It can be concluded that MPR 2 will lead to the highest risk of water pollution amongst the MPRs. In general, MPR 2 would obtain a higher economic return from the industrial sector (the average amount of contamination discharging in the industrial sector per GDP value is higher than other sectors), under an optimistic estimation of the system’s environmental conditions, expecting that economic return will in turn provide funding to enlarge the volume of water available and to mitigate the water pollution through purchasing the outside water authority, building desalinate systems, and developing waste water treatment systems. Therefore, when economic objective is emphasized, MPR 2 would be a possible alternative. MPR 1 would keep a balance amongst the economic return, water supplies and water quality. The overall economic return in MPR 1, although improved water environmental quality can be obtained and could realize water supply-demand balance, is lower than that in MPR 2. In MPR 3, water management approaches and optimal distribution are preferred, and the overall economic return is a little lower than that in MPR 2 due to the relative large investment to develop new technology to save fresh water consumption per GDP value, thus achieving water supply-demand balance with higher water quality. 4. Conclusions As an important component of the human-dominated urban SEE ecosystem, the quality and quantity of water resources interact directly with the human being behaviors. Water resources sustainable strategic research should be conducted based on the comprehensive understanding of the total urban complex system. In this study, a system dynamics model (TianjinSD) is developed for water resources strategic planning in Tianjin city. Interactions amongst a number of system components during a period of 12 years are dynamically examined. Based on the SSP analysed, three proposed planning are presented according to different scenarios, and accordingly, the results are provided by the simulation of the TianjinSD model. Through simulation and comparison, relative results for different decision-making procedures are obtained, implying that the TianjinSD model can lay solid foundation for reasonable decision based on dynamic simulation with scenario analysis. Acknowledgements This work is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 50578108), National Key Program for Basic Research (973 Program, Grants Nos. 2006CB403304 and 2005CB724204), Sci and Tec Development Foundation of Tianjin (No. 033113811 and No. O5YFSYSF032) and in part by the Beijing Natural Science Foundation (Grant No. 8061002).

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Appendix Abbreviations for variables and parameters in the TianjinSD model No. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 Abbreviation AP NAP DP TP BP DR NMR NM BR UR PCAUDWD TDWD PCVASWC SIWD EIC IWD AWD VAI GVAI GRVAI CA CCA CRCA PCCA VAA PAVAA GVAA GRVAA IIEP PCVAS GVAS VASI IRVAS RRSIWW VIWT TAWW VPW TVWT PVAIWWD TIWWD AWWD PCDWWD DRW TVDS DWT WPI CWR Description Agricultural population Non-agricultural population Death population Total population Birth population Death rate Net migration rate Net migration Birth rate Urbanization rate Per capita average urban domestic water demand Total domestic water demand Per capital VAS water consumption Service industry water demand Effective irrigation coefficient Industrial water demand Agriculture water demand Value-added of industry Growth of value-added of industry Growth rate of VAI Cultivated area Change of cultivated area Change rate of cultivated area Per capita cultivated area Value-added of agriculture Per area VAA (108yuan/mu) Growth of value-added of agriculture Growth rate of VAA Investment in environment protection Per capita VAS Growth of value-added of service Value-added of the service industry Increase rate of VAS Rate of reaching the standard of industrial wastewater Volume of industrial wastewater treated Total volume of wastewater Volume of polluted water Total volume of wastewater treated Per VAI wastewater discharge Total industrial wastewater discharge Agriculture wastewater discharge Per capita domestic wastewater discharge Disposal rate of waste Total volume of domestic sewage Domestic wastewater treated Water pollution index Change of water resources Unit (104 people) (104 people) (104 people/year) (104 people) (1/year) (1/year) (1/year) (104 people/year) (1/year) (l/people) (104 ton) (ton/104 yuan) (104 ton) (104 ton) (104 ton) (108 yuan) (108 yuan/year) (104 mu) (104 mu) (104 mu/year) (mu/people) (108 yuan) (108 yuan/acre) (108 yuan/year) (108 yuan) (108 yuan/people) (104 yuan/year) (108 yuan) (104 ton) (104 ton) (104 ton) (104 ton) (ton/104 yuan) (104 ton) (104 ton) (ton/year) (104 ton) (104 ton) (104 ton/year)


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Appendix (continued) No. 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 Abbreviation TWRS WCPCA TWD WRS-DB EWD CAE-W-D ACR LRA PCARDWD TDWC GA VIWT PPVAI QWC AWD ACR PCVIWC Description Total water resources supply Water consumption per cultivated area Total water demand Water resources supply-demand balance Ecological water demand Change of EWD Annual change rate Lake and river area Per capita average rural domestic water demand Total domestic water consumption Green area Volume of industrial wastewater treated Per person VAI Quantity of water changing Agriculture water demand Annual change rate Per VAI water consumption Unit (104 ton) (ton/mu) (104 ton) (104 ton) (104 ton/year) (104 mu) (liter/people. day) (104 ton) (mu) (104 ton) (104 yuan/people) (104 ton) (ton/104 yuan)

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