Spatio-temporal patterns and trends of streamflow in water-scarce Mediterranean basins

Estrada, Laia; Garcia, Xavier; Saló, Joan; Marcé, Rafael; Munné, Antoni; Acuña, Vicenç

The issue of water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change and demographic increase, has become a growing concern in many regions throughout the world. Understanding hydrological behaviour to promote resilient and sustainable water management is paramount. Hydrological models that integrate natural processes and anthropogenic alterations of the basin’s hydrology are a powerful tool to support decision-making. We developed a SWAT+ hydrological model including stakeholder expert knowledge on water management and introducing a novel calibration and validation approach suitable for heterogeneous basins in space and / or time. We also assessed spatio-temporal patterns and trends of streamflow during the first two decades of the 21 st century in the Catalan River Basin District, in the western Mediterranean, using a wide variety of indicators to fully characterize the hydrological regime. We calibrated and validated the model using data from 50 gauging stations, verifying the usefulness of the new calibration and validation strategy. Co-development with stakeholders and the integration of expert knowledge, most notably on reservoir operations, helped improve model performance. Results revealed a generalized streamflow reduction, as well as increased dominance of streamflow flashiness and zero-flows recurrence. We also observed differences in seasonal trends, with autumn being the most affected season. These results provide insights into how climate change and anthropogenic pressures are going to keep affecting water resources availability in the future, thus raising the need for sustainable management practices in the Catalan River Basin District, as well as other regions vulnerable to water scarcity.

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Estrada, Laia / Garcia, Xavier / Saló, Joan / et al: Spatio-temporal patterns and trends of streamflow in water-scarce Mediterranean basins. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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