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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
16 Nov 2016
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).
Multi-method assessment of reservoir effects on hydrological droughts in an arid region
Sally Rangecroft1, Anne F. Van Loon1, Héctor Maureira2, Koen Verbist3,4, and David M. Hannah1 1School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
2CAZALAC, Water Center for Arid and Semiarid Zones in Latin America and the Caribbean, Benavente #980, La Serena, IV Región, Chile
3UNESCO , Enrique del Piano 2058, Santiago, Providenica, Chile
4UNESCO Chair for Eremology, Department of Soil Management, Ghent University, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent, Belgium
Abstract. Increasing pressures on water resources in arid regions have led to their increased management and construction of dams; however, the impacts of these anthropogenic activities on hydrological droughts have yet to be incorporated and assessed. Here, the impact of the Santa Juana dam on hydrological drought characteristics downstream has been analysed in the Huasco basin in northern Chile. Two different methods of drought analysis, threshold level method and standardised indices, were applied to observed and modelled data. An upstream-downstream approach was taken for the observation data, analysing the "disturbed" (post-dam) period and the "undisturbed" (pre-dam) period to allow for an assessment of the onset of the significant anthropogenic activity on the hydrological regime. Modelled data from the Water Evaluation And Planning (WEAP) model generated a naturalised scenario and human-influenced scenario for similar analysis. Our findings show the characteristics of recent drought events in the basin (1965–2013). The reservoir is shown to help alleviate hydrological droughts by reducing frequency, duration and intensity of drought events, though it did not alleviate major multi-year drought events. A delay in timing of drought events has been observed also with the presence of the dam. The reliability of these different methods and approaches to quantify the impact of the dam are evaluated, with concluding recommendations that the threshold level method using an undisturbed threshold may be the most suitable. These findings show an applicable way forward with quantifying the human influence on hydrological droughts, a method that can be applied elsewhere, and on other human activities.

Citation: Rangecroft, S., Van Loon, A. F., Maureira, H., Verbist, K., and Hannah, D. M.: Multi-method assessment of reservoir effects on hydrological droughts in an arid region, Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., doi:10.5194/esd-2016-57, in review, 2016.
Sally Rangecroft et al.
Sally Rangecroft et al.
Sally Rangecroft et al.


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Short summary
This paper on anthropogenic droughts looks at the interactions of human activity and "natural" processes. Using a case study of the introduction of a reservoir in a Chilean river basin and a new methodology, we established the most effective way forward for quantifying human activities on hydrological drought: the "threshold level" method with an "undisturbed" time period as the threshold. This will increase our understanding on how human activities are impacting the hydrological system.
This paper on anthropogenic droughts looks at the interactions of human activity and "natural"...