Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Earth Surface System and Environmental Carrying Capacity, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Northwest University, Xi'an 710127, China; State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yangling 712100, China. Electronic address: [Email]
The quantity and quality of water resources are of great importance in maintaining urban socio-economic development. Accordingly, substantial research has been conducted on the concept of the water resources carrying capacity (WRCC). In this study, analytic hierarchy process (AHP) and system dynamics (SD) models were combined to construct a multi-criteria evaluation system of the WRCC and a socio-economic/water resources SD model for Xi'an. The developmental trends of the society, economy, water supply/demand, and wastewater discharge were obtained from 2015 to 2020 using five scenarios designed for distinct purposes; these scenarios and trends were comprehensively evaluated using a combination of qualitative and quantitative analyses. The results indicated that the WRCC (0.32 in 2020) in Xi'an will shift from a normal to a poor state if the current social development pattern is maintained; therefore, we conclude that the socio-economic development of Xi'an is unsustainable. However, under a comprehensive scheme, the WRCC index (0.64 in 2020) will increase by 48% compared with the WRCC index under a business-as-usual scenario. Further, some practical suggestions, including the promotion of industrial reforms and the improvement of water-use efficiency and recycling policies, were provided for improving the regional WRCC.