The Mann–Kendall test, wavelet analysis was used to analyse the long-term trends and periodicities in temperature, precipitation and streamflow in China's Shiyang River Basin since 1950. The Principal components analysis (PCA) was used to quantify the impacts of climate change and human activities on water resources. The annual mean air temperature has increased, consistent with increasing global temperatures. The annual precipitation fluctuated but has generally increased since the 1990s. The air temperature and precipitation showed changes on periods ranging from 2 to 28 years. The correlation between annual runoff and precipitation variation was 0.61 (P < 0.05), indicating precipitation is the main source of the runoff. Human activities played the dominant role in the lower reaches, accounting for 58.5% of the total effect. The results have important implications for water resources management to support harmonisation of the relationship between humans and nature to combat the effect of climate.