Harmonizing human-hydrological system under climate change: A scenario-based approach for the case of the headwaters of the Tagus River

Anastasia Lobanova, Stefan Liersch, J. David Tàbara, Hagen Koch, Fred F. Hattermann, Valentina Krysanova

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17 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Elsevier B.V. Conventional water management strategies, that serve solely socio-economic demands and neglect changing natural conditions of the river basins, face significant challenges in governing complex human-hydrological systems, especially in the areas with constrained water availability. In this study we assess the possibility to harmonize the inter-sectoral water allocation scheme within a highly altered human-hydrological system under reduction in water availability, triggered by projected climate change applying scenario-based approach. The Tagus River Basin headwaters, with significant disproportion in the water resources allocation between the environmental and socio-economic targets were taken as a perfect example of such system out of balance. We propose three different water allocation strategies for this region, including two conventional schemes and one imposing shift to sustainable water management and environmental restoration of the river. We combine in one integrated modelling framework the eco-hydrological process-based Soil and Water Integrated Model (SWIM), coupled with the conceptual reservoir and water allocation modules driven by the latest bias-corrected climate projections for the region and investigate possible water allocation scenarios in the region under constrained water availability in the future. Our results show that the socio-economic demands have to be re-considered and lowered under any water allocation strategy, as the climate impacts may significantly reduce water availability in the future. Further, we show that a shift to sustainable water management strategy and river restoration is possible even under reduced water availability. Finally, our results suggest that the adaptation of complex human-hydrological systems to climate change and a shift to a more sustainable water management are likely to be parts of one joint strategy to cope with climate change impacts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)436-447
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Climate change
  • Human-hydrological systems
  • Hydrological modelling
  • Reservoir management
  • Tagus Segura Water Transfer
  • Water resources allocation


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