Surface water quality in the upstream-most megacity of the Yangtze River Basin (Chengdu): 2000-2019 trends, the COVID-19 lockdown effects, and water governance implications


Water is essential for a sustainable economic prosperity, but rapid economic growth and intensive agricultural activities usually cause water pollution. The middle and lower reaches of China's Yangtze River Basin were urbanized and industrialized much earlier than the upper reach and have been suffering from water pollution. In the past two decades, economic growth accelerated in the upper reach due to several national economic initiatives. Based on analyzing water quality changes from 2000 to 2019 and during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020 for Chengdu in the upper reach, we hope to provide some water governance suggestions. In 2019, water at 66% of 93 sites in Chengdu did not achieve the national III standards using measurements of 23 water quality parameters. The top two pollutants were total nitrogen (TN) and fecal coliform (FC). From 2000 to 2019, water quality was not significantly improved at the non-background sites of Chengdu's Min Basin, and the pollution in this basin was mainly from local pollutants release. During the same period, water quality deteriorated in Chengdu's Tuo Basin, where pollution was the result of pollutant discharges in Chengdu in addition to inter-city pollutant transport. During the COVID-19 lockdown, water quality generally improved in the Min Basin but not in the Tuo Basin. A further investigation on which pollution sources were shut down or not during the lockdown can help make pollution reduction targets. Based on the results, we provide suggestions to strengthen inter-jurisdictional and inter-institutional cooperation, water quality monitoring and evaluation, and ecological engineering application.



Publication Date


Publication Title

Environmental and Sustainability Indicators



Additional Department

Archaeological Studies

Document Type




Water quality index, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Fecal coliforms, Water quality management