Hydrological characterization of dammed rivers in the NW Mediterranean region

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Abstract

Water scarcity and climatic variability in the Mediterranean region have traditionally required the construction of dams to guarantee water supply for irrigation, industrial and urban uses and hydropower production. Reservoirs affect the hydrology of the river downstream, but the magnitude and persistence of these effects are still poorly unknown. Understanding the magnitude of these effects is the objective of this paper, in which we analyse the flow regimes of twelve rivers located in the NW Mediterranean region. Different temporal scales (daily, monthly and annual) are used for the analysis and also to estimate flow variables associated with flow magnitude, frequency, duration and variability. It is shown that dams alter the hydrological regime of most of the studied rivers, with special influence on monthly flows and flood magnitude and frequency. The most altered rivers (Muga and Siurana, NE Iberian Peninsula) experience a complete overturn in their flow regime with, for instance, flood reduction reaching up to 76% for the 2-year flood event. Other rivers showed lower changes in hydrology (e.g. Orb and Têt). Annual runoff showed a pattern of decrease in all the studied rivers (regulated and non-regulated) indicating that besides dams (i.e. reservoir evaporation), other factors likely affect water yield. A general recovery downstream from dams is also observed at all temporal scales, mainly because of the inflow from tributaries. Although dams have a clear impact on the hydrology of Mediterranean rivers, water withdrawals and diversions for irrigation and other consumptive uses also affected the hydrological patterns. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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