The Yellow River is ranked as the second longest river in Asia. The term Yellow River translates from its Chinese name, Huang He. The Yellow River in China is 3,395 miles long, ranking as the sixth longest river in the world. The river carries over 1.6 billion tons of silt per year. The Yellow River has a total drainage area of about 290,560 square miles, which provides drinking water and irrigation to approximately 140 million people.
Source And Stages
The Yellow River originates from the Bayan Har Mountains, where water flows through swamps and pastures steadily with a clear appearance. The river has three stages of which different scholars have given variant opinions on the division of these stages. The Yellow River’s upper reaches begin at its source in the Bayan Har Mountains and ends Hekou Town in Inner Mongolia. This segment of the river is 2,157 miles long. The elevation of Yellow River drops about 11,470 feet in this section. The upper stage includes two crystal clear lakes, Lake Zhaling with a capacity of 166 billion cubic feet and Lake Eling at 381 billion cubic feet. The middle reaches, where the Ordos Loop feature a massive twist of the river, officially starting at Hekou Town and ending at Zhengzhou in Henan. This stage has a length of 749 miles and an elevation drop of 2,920 feet. The lower reaches begins at Zhengzhou and ends at the river’s mouth where it drains into the Bohai Sea. The lower part of the river crosses the vast North China Plain by flowing for a distance of 488 miles.
Yellow River Tributaries
There are various tributaries to the Yellow River ranging from the river’s source in the mountains up to where it drains into the Bohai Sea. The largest is Wei River, which has its source less than 120 miles from the Yellow River. However, Wei River which has a length of 508 miles meets the course of Huang He further along at about 1,200 miles. The Luo River, measuring 260 miles, feeds its waters into the Yellow River at Gongyi City. Other tributaries include the rivers Black, White, Qin, Qingshui, and Fen.
Hydroelectric Power Dams
The Yellow River has several power stations along its course. Construction of the first dam, the Sanmenxia Dam, began in 1957 and ended in 1960. This water control project was for irrigation and power generation as well as controlling ice and floods. Sanmenxia Dam had an installed capacity of 400 megawatts. Recently, construction of Maerdang Dam began in 2011 and is expected to start operating in 2018 with an installed capacity of about 2,200 megawatts. Seven large hydropower stations including Longyangxia and Bapanxia had a total installed capacity of 5,618 megawatts according to a report in 2000.
Pollution In The Yellow River
In 2007, over 8,384 miles of the Yellow River was under the surveillance of the Yellow River Conservancy Commission. From the survey, the commission found that according to the UN Environment Program’s criteria, 33.8% of the Yellow River's waters was unfit for industrial and agricultural use as well as human consumption. 70% of all discharges into the Yellow River are from industries with households and other sources accounting for about 23% and 6% of the discharges, respectively.