The overexploitation of water resources has a substantial influence on their sustainable utilization and the ecological environment in a river basin. Quantification of the development and utilization of water resources plays an important role in guiding the rational utilization of water resources. Based on this, this paper develops the concept of water resource utilization polarization (WRUP) in order to qualitatively analyze whether water resources are being overexploited in the process of utilization. An index model of WRUP was built to quantify the degree of water resources overexploitation. In addition, taking seven secondary basins of the Yellow River as examples, the available quantity, overdraft and polarization indexes of surface water and groundwater resources were calculated. The results show that there are 34.49×108 m3 of surface water available, which accounts for 56.21% of the total surface water volume. A total of 5.84×108 m3 of groundwater is available, which is 58.74% of the total groundwater resources. We also found that the water resources are heavily overexploited and that there is extensive polarization in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River. The highest polarization of water resources occurs from Lanzhou to Toudaoguai where the polarization index is 19.88 and from Longmen to Sanmenxia where it is 11.81. There is no polarization above Longyangxia or from Toudaoguai to Longmen. Overall, the polarization of water resources is 7.95 over the entire Yellow River area. These results provide a reference for the availability of water resources that can be used to determine the degree of overexploitation of the water resources in the Yellow River.
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