Economic development and increasing population density along the lower reaches of the Yellow river have challenged the river’s ability to meet human and ecological demand. The evaluation of the sustainability of water resources in the lower reaches of the Yellow River is of great significance for the achievement of high-quality development in the region. Based on an improved ecological footprint method considering soil water, the spatial and temporal evolution of the water resources ecological footprint and water resources carrying capacity and evaluates the utilization of water resources in the lower Yellow River are comprehensively evaluated. The results show that agricultural water consumption in the urban agglomerations in the lower reaches of the Yellow River occupies a major position in water consumption, accounting for more than 70%. In 2013–2017, the per capita water resources ecological footprint of the cities along the lower reaches of the Yellow River decreases every year, while the water resources carrying capacity is slightly fluctuating, but remains in a relatively stable state. The deficit situation has eased, falling by 54.52% in the past five years. The water use efficiency of the lower reaches of the Yellow River has increased every year, and the water resources conflict improved significantly, after the implementation of the new environmental policy in 2015. In terms of space, the cities with the smallest per capita ecological deficits include Zibo, Zhengzhou, and Laiwu City, and Dezhou, and Kaifeng and Binzhou City have the largest. Strict water resources management measures and water pollution prevention and control regulations should be formulated to improve the water use efficiency in these areas in order to solve the problem of water shortage.
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