Why increased extreme precipitation under climate change negatively affects water security

Eekhout, Joris P. C.; Hunink, Johannes E.; Terink, Wilco; de Vente, Joris

An increase in extreme precipitation is projected for many areas worldwide in the coming decades. To assess the impact of increased precipitation intensity on water security, we applied a regional-scale hydrological and soil erosion model, forced with regional climate model projections. We specifically considered the impact of climate change on the distribution of water between soil (green water) and surface water (blue water) compartments. We show that an increase in precipitation intensity leads to a redistribution of water within the catchment, where water storage in soil decreases and reservoir inflow increases. This affects plant water stress and the potential of rainfed versus irrigated agriculture, and increases dependency on reservoir storage, which is potentially threatened by increased soil erosion. This study demonstrates the crucial importance of accounting for the fact that increased precipitation intensity leads to water redistribution between green and blue water, increased soil erosion, and reduced water security. Ultimately, this has implications for design of climate change adaptation measures, which should aim to increase the water holding capacity of the soil (green water) and to maintain the storage capacity of reservoirs (blue water), benefiting rainfed and irrigated agriculture.

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Eekhout, Joris P. C. / Hunink, Johannes E. / Terink, Wilco / et al: Why increased extreme precipitation under climate change negatively affects water security. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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