Demonstrating the impact of integrated drought policies on hydrological droughts

Wendt, Doris E.; Bloomfield, John P. ORCID:; Van Loon, Anne F.; Garcia, Margaret; Heudorfer, Benedikt; Larsen, Joshua; Hannah, David M.. 2021 Demonstrating the impact of integrated drought policies on hydrological droughts. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 21 (10). 3113-3139.

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Managing water-human systems in times of water shortage and droughts is key to avoid overexploitation of water resources, particularly for groundwater, which is a crucial water resource during droughts sustaining both environmental and anthropogenic water demand. Drought management is often guided by drought policies to avoid crisis management and to actively introduce management strategies during droughts. However, the impact of drought management strategies on hydrological droughts is rarely assessed. In this study, we present a newly developed socio-hydrological model, simulating feedbacks between water availability and managed water use over three decades. Thereby, we aim to assess the impact of drought policies on both surface water and groundwater droughts. We tested this model in an idealised catchment based on climate data, water resource management practices, and drought policies in England. The model includes surface water storage (reservoir), groundwater storage for a range of hydrogeological conditions and optional imported surface water or groundwater. These modelled water sources can all be used to satisfy anthropogenic and environmental water demand. We tested four aspects of drought management strategies: 1) increased water supply, 2) restricted water demand, 3) conjunctive water use, and 4) maintained environmental flow requirements by restricting groundwater abstractions. These four strategies were evaluated in separate and combined scenarios. Results show mitigated droughts for both streamflow and groundwater droughts in scenarios applying conjunctive use, particularly in low groundwater storage systems. In high groundwater storage systems, maintaining environmental flows reduces hydrological droughts most. Scenarios increasing or restricting water demand have an opposing effect on droughts, although these scenarios are in balance when combined at the same time. Most combined scenarios reduce the severity and occurrence of hydrological droughts given an incremental dependency on imported water that satisfies up to a third of the total anthropogenic water demand. The necessity for importing water shows the considerable pressure on water resources and the delicate balance of water-human systems during droughts that calls for short-term and long-term sustainability targets within drought policies.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 15618633
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater
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Date made live: 28 Jun 2021 13:41 +0 (UTC)

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