With the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy in recent years, the urbanization process of the provinces in the Yellow River Basin (YRB) has put serious pressure on the sustainability of the water resources carrying capacity (WRCC). It is necessary to analyze and diagnose the coordination state between urbanization and the WRCC. In this study, based on the Population-Economic-Social-Spatial (PESS) framework and Pressure-State-Response (PSR) model, we developed two index systems for the urbanization and WRCC, respectively. At the basis of the two index systems, the coupling coordination degree (CCD) of the two systems is calculated by applying the improved CCD model. Based on the calculated CCD for each province, the spatio-temporal analysis was performed to analyze the characteristics of CCD in the YRB. The obstacle factor model is utilized to obtain the main obstacle factors. The results show that: (1) the coordination state between the urbanization and WRCC systems was improved to some extent in 2017, compared to 2008, but there are differences in the coordination state of the different provinces in the YRB. (2) In terms of the level of urbanization, the gap between the seven provinces’ performance levels widened because urbanization grew at different rates. The WRCC system’s performance presented a fluctuating downward trend from 2008 to 2017 in the YRB. (3) The pressure subsystem had a significant impact on the two systems’ coordination state in the YRB, while the social urbanization and response subsystem had a less significant impact on the urbanization system and the WRCC system, respectively. Due to the growth of urbanization, the imbalanced development of the WRCC and urbanization has become the principal contradiction that must be solved in order to achieve sustainability in the YRB. The analysis of the coupling relationship between urbanization and WRCC may guide the policy makers in planning for realistic goals. The results provide a guide for high-quality development in the YRB.
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