How will climate change affect spatial coherence of streamflow and groundwater droughts in Great Britain?

Tanguy, Maliko ORCID:; Chevuturi, Amulya ORCID:; Marchant, Ben P. ORCID:; Mackay, Jonathan D. ORCID:; Parry, Simon ORCID:; Hannaford, Jamie ORCID: 2023 How will climate change affect spatial coherence of streamflow and groundwater droughts in Great Britain? Environmental Research Letters, 18 (6), 064048. 11, pp.

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How climate change will affect spatial coherence of droughts is a key question that water managers must answer in order to adopt strategies to mitigate impacts on water resources. Water transfers from regions with excess to those in deficit are fundamental to such strategies, but only possible if both regions are not simultaneously under drought conditions – these relationships could change in a warming world. Here we use future simulations (under RCP8.5) of streamflow (186 catchments) and groundwater level (41 boreholes) from eFLaG dataset to analyse the projected change in spatial coherence of hydrological droughts at a national scale, with Great Britain as a demonstration. Joint and conditional probabilities of two regions being in droughts simultaneously are used to characterise spatial coherence. Results are sensitive to various uncertainties, including the way drought is defined. However, some key findings emerge. In particular, for droughts defined based on current conditions, our results show that the spatial coherence of streamflow droughts, for the "far future" (2050-2089), is expected to increase in summer everywhere in the country. In winter, however, spatial coherence may only increase in the South-East, where the sharpest rise in winter droughts is likely to occur. The coherence between groundwater and streamflow droughts shows a more mixed picture, dependant on season and region. One important observation is that, in the South-East, in summer, the proportion of streamflow droughts which coincide with groundwater droughts is expected to decrease. These results provide valuable insight to water managers to help inform their long-term strategy to overcome future impacts of droughts, including the feasibility of inter-region water transfers and conjunctive use (surface and groundwater) schemes. This flexible methodology has the potential to be applied in other parts of the world to help shape strategic regional and national investments to increase resilience to droughts.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 1748-9326
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: drought, climate change, spatial coherence, water resources, inter-regional water transfer, river flows, groundwater levels
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Date made live: 20 Jul 2023 11:29 +0 (UTC)

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