Modeling climate change impacts on hydrology and water resources : case study Rio Conchos basin

Ingol Blanco, Eusebio Mercedes
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Water resources availability could be affected by alterations of hydrologic processes as a result of climate change. Global projections of climate change indicate negative impacts on water systems with increasing flooding and drought events. This investigation presents the modeling of climate change effects on the hydrology and water resources availability in the Rio Conchos basin, the main tributary of the lower portion of the bi-national Rio Grande/Bravo basin, and its impact on the water treaty signed between the United States of America and Mexico in 1944. One of the problems most relevant to the study basin is the frequent occurrence of long drought periods. Coupled with increased water demands and low irrigation efficiencies, the competition for water resources is high on both sides of the border. Three main parts are addressed in this research. First, a hydrologic model has been developed using the one-dimensional, 2 layer soil moisture accounting scheme embedded in a water evaluation and planning model. Second, downscaled precipitation and temperature data, from five general circulation models for two emission scenarios, A1B and A2, were used as inputs to the Rio Conchos hydrologic model to determine the effect on basin hydrology. A multi-model ensemble is developed and several techniques, such as probability density functions, wavelet analysis, and trend analysis, are used to assess the impacts. Third, a water resources planning model for the basin has been developed, which integrates the hydrologic model and water management modeling, to evaluate the impacts on the entire water system and simulate adaptive strategies to mitigate climate change in the study basin. Skill-weighted multi-model ensemble results show that annual average runoff may be reduced by 12% ± 53% and 20% ± 45% in 2080-2099 relative to 1980-1999 for the A1B and A2 scenarios, respectively. Likewise, results show that reliability and resiliency of the water system will tend to decrease; consequently, the vulnerability of the system increases over time. Proposed adaptation measures could make the system more reliable and less vulnerable in meeting water demands for irrigation and municipal uses.