Monthly Hydrological Indicators to Assess Possible Alterations on Rivers’ Flow Regime

Abstract

Assessing potential deviations of the fundamental river basins’ hydrological processes and streamflow characteristics from the “natural trajectory” represents a high-priority objective to understand the biological impact of altered flow regime on river ecosystems. Existing approaches are mainly based on the analysis of daily-based indicators of hydrologic alteration, which requires wide database, including “pre-impact” and “post-impact” daily flow data frequently unavailable. The hydrological modeling is commonly used to face data missing problems or reconstruct natural conditions, even if models, especially at the daily scales, are often complex and computationally intensive. The use of simpler and more parsimonious models results, sometimes, essential for practical applications, also in consideration of the typical scarce availability of some data. This paper proposes an alternative approach for the evaluation of rivers flow regime alterations, based on different monthly hydrological indicators that are first computed and then combined to provide a global index of alteration. The procedure, conceptually derived from the Range of Variability Approach (RVA), is applied and tested on two Sicilian river basins (Italy) subject to anthropogenic influence. Streamflow regime for both the basins results differently disturbed by upstream human pressures. An alteration index is computed using available observations as “post-impact” monthly flow time-series, while time-series relative to “pre-impact” conditions have been reconstructed by the Tri.Mo.Ti.S. model, an innovative monthly and high-performing regional regressive hydrological model. The methodology, easily transferable to other regions, has revealed particularly efficacious in identifying and quantifying the existing human pressures and can be considered as a suitable tool for water resource management and policy planning activities.

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Acknowledgments

Thanks to the numerous scientists who provided additional information from their studies. The authors also thank anonymous reviewers, editor-in-chief and associate editor for their helpful suggestions on the quality improvement of this present paper.

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Correspondence to Dario Pumo.

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Pumo, D., Francipane, A., Cannarozzo, M. et al. Monthly Hydrological Indicators to Assess Possible Alterations on Rivers’ Flow Regime. Water Resour Manage 32, 3687–3706 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11269-018-2013-6

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Keywords

  • Hydrological change
  • Dam impacts
  • Flow regime alteration
  • Hydrological indicators
  • IARI
  • IHA