Natural Hazards

, Volume 77, Issue 3, pp 1655–1677 | Cite as

Analysis of hydrological drought frequency for the Xijiang River Basin in South China using observed streamflow data

  • Zhiyong Wu
  • Qingxia Lin
  • Guihua Lu
  • Hai He
  • John J. Qu
Original Paper


Climate change is likely to lead to an increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, including floods and droughts. Hydrological drought refers to deficiencies in surface and subsurface water supplies and is usually measured by streamflow, and lake, reservoir and ground water levels. Properly assessing hydrological drought is crucial to decision-making and management of regional water resources. In this study, changes in hydrological drought frequency over the Xijiang River Basin in South China are investigated through an analysis of daily streamflow data observed at major hydrological stations along the river during the period 1951–2013. The main results are as follows: (1) Standardized Runoff Drought Index is a suitable measure for regional hydrological drought research in the Xijiang Basin, as its correlation coefficient with actual disaster areas is above 0.6 for Wuzhou hydrological station; (2) the hydrological droughts in the Xijiang Basin typically have a short duration that are often less than 60 days; (3) there were three serious hydrological drought periods (the 1950s to mid-1960s, the late 1980s to mid-1990s and the mid-2000s to early 2010s) and two drought relief periods (the late 1960s to mid-1980s and the late 1990s to early 2000s) for the Xijiang Basin; (4) hydrological droughts in the Xijiang River occur frequently and are mainly concentrated in summer and spring, although serious hydrological droughts can easily arise in autumn. Droughts tend to be more frequent but less severe moving from upstream to downstream, and a long duration often accompanies high severity for a single drought event; and (5) severe hydrological droughts in upstream and midstream areas are characterized by long durations and high severities, respectively. Return periods based on copula could generally reflect actual drought situations, and severe and extreme hydrological droughts occur when return periods greater than 20 and 50 a, respectively.


Hydrological drought Streamflow Standardized Runoff Drought Index Drought frequency Xijiang River 



This work is supported by the Special Public Sector Research Program of Ministry of Water Resources (Grant Nos. 201301040 and 201401008), the Foundation for the Author of National Excellent Doctoral Dissertation of PR China (Grant No. 201161), the Qing Lan Project and Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (Grant number NCET-12-0842), the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province of China (Grant number BK20131368), and the Postgraduate Research Innovation Projects of Jiangsu Province of China (Grant number 2014B35014). The authors would like to thank Dr. Lei Wen, Dr. Raymond P. Mothathe and the reviewers for their advice and comments that help improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhiyong Wu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Qingxia Lin
    • 1
  • Guihua Lu
    • 1
  • Hai He
    • 1
  • John J. Qu
    • 2
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Hydrology-Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, College of Hydrology and Water ResourcesHohai UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Global Environment and Natural Resources Institute (GENRI), College of ScienceGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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