In recent years, water scarcity and irrational utilization have become the pivotal issues for the sustainable development of river basins in China. This paper attempts to propose a new perspective for the optimization of water resources allocation in a typical river basin. In order to conduct an accurate and feasible program for water resources allocation in the water-deficient river basin, a multi-objective and multi-constraint programming model was developed by embedding land use effect as a constraint on water allocation, which was currently solely decided by water resources demand in different water use sectors. The program includes two layers, namely water allocation among different counties located in the middle reaches of the Heihe River Basin and among domestic, industrial, agricultural and ecological uses within one county. Empirical analysis shows that the structural change of land use has an important influence and restriction on the water resources allocation in the river basin. The least cultivated areas that ensure food security and the constraint of construction land quota have great impact on agricultural and industrial water allocation. Moreover, the quantitative change of ecological land greatly affects ecological water allocation. The results demonstrate that the optimal program calculated from land use embedded model can well predicate the actual situation of water allocation in the future. To ensure regional sustainable development, it is vital that reasonable water-saving measures in each water use sector and ecological protection policies be taken.
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