Combined assessment of climate change and socio-economic development as drivers of freshwater availability in the south of Portugal

  • Articles in SCI Journals
  • Jun, 2017

Nunes J.P., Jacinto R. & Keizer J.J. (2017) Combined impacts of climate and socio-economic scenarios on irrigation water availability for a dry Mediterranean reservoir.

Science of the Total Environment, 584-585, 219-233. DOI:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.01.131 (IF2016 4,900; Q1 Environmental Sciences)

The impacts of climate and associated socio-economic changes on water availability, including supply and demand, quality, and storage volume, were evaluated for the Vale do Gaio reservoir in southern Portugal, located in a dry Mediterranean climate and already under drought stress. The SWAT model was applied with 6 scenarios for 2071–2100, involving two storylines (A1B and B1) with individual changes in climate (− 9% rainfall, increasing in winter by + 28 to + 30%), socio-economic conditions (an increase in irrigation demand by 11%, and a replacement of cereals and pastures by sunflower), and a combination of both. Most future scenarios resulted in lower water availability, due to lower supply (− 19 to − 27%) combined with higher irrigation demand (+ 3 to + 21%). This resulted in more years with limited irrigation supplies (presently: 28%; scenarios: 37 to 43%), although limitations were mitigated by lower losses to excess discharge. Land-use changes also decreased quality by increasing P concentrations (+ 29 to + 93%). Impacts were more severe in scenario A1B than in B1, and in combined changes than in climate or socio-economic changes only. Water availability was resilient to climate change, as impacts led only to a moderate aggravation of present-day conditions. Lower future water availability could be addressed by supply and demand management strategies and, in the most extreme scenario, by water transfers from regional water reserves; water quality issues could be addressed through land-use policies. Results also highlighted the importance of taking the characteristics of water supply systems into account when designing adaptation measures for future changes.