The Huang He or Yellow River is known as the cradle of Chinese culture. The river originates in far western china in the Bayankela Mountains of the Tibetan Plateau (at roughly 4,000m above sea level). The river travels eastwards towards the Bohai Sea where it ends in an extensive delta. The term yellow river is a reference to the ochre-yellow colour of the calcareous sediment transported by the river which originates in the Loess Plateau. Due to the high silt content of the river, its bed has become elevated which has led to natural dikes developing along the banks of the lower river reaches. At times of high flow or flood conditions, these dikes can break causing devastating flooding of the surrounding flood plains.
Around 12% of china’s population uses the Huang He as a water source. In recent years increased irrigation and water diversions has increases the frequency of low flows and in some years (e.g. 1972) this has caused the river to dry up and not reach the sea.