The Yangtze River Economic Belt, which is an important development axis of China’s “T-shaped” strategy, has been challenged by water resource utilization and water environment protection due to the rapid development of the social economy. In this study, to understand the variation characteristics, competition and cooperation relationship, and optimal stable point of synergetic development capability of the “water resource–water environment–socioeconomic development” coupling system, 20 years of data, from 1999 to 2018, at the general, provincial, and city scales were analyzed. The results showed that the synergetic development capability of the Yangtze River Economic Belt in 2011 was a mutation point; it fluctuated slightly before 2011 and steadily rose after 2011, with an average value of 2.46. The three subsystems were all in an evolutionary state, and the evolution speed was sorted by socioeconomic development > water resources > water environment. The water resource subsystem and water environment subsystem had a win–win relationship, and the other subsystems had a lose–lose relationship. Moreover, the synergetic evolution stable point of the Yangtze River Economic Belt was
. From the spatial trend, the synergetic development capability in the west was better than in the east and the capability in the south was better than in the north. The spatial agglomeration and spatial heterogeneity in 110 cities were more obvious than those of 11 provinces. From the temporal trend, the synergetic development capability gradually improved. Additionally, the synergetic development capability and its rank obeyed Zipf’s rank-size rule, and the degree of deviation gradually reduced. Furthermore, the Yangtze River Economic Belt can be divided into nine secondary urban agglomerations, and the western, central, and eastern regions paid more attention to socioeconomic development, water environment improvement, and water resource protection, respectively. The “siphon effect” in the central cities was greater than the “radiation effect”. This study provided a method for effectively evaluating the synergetic development characteristics and is of great significance to the protection, development, and utilization of water resources.
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