Climatic and anthropogenic drivers of a drying Himalayan river.

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Date: Jan. 24, 2022
From: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences(Vol. 26, Issue 2)
Publisher: Copernicus GmbH
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 287 words

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Abstract :

Streamflow regimes are rapidly changing in many regions of the world. Attribution of these changes to specific hydrological processes and their underlying climatic and anthropogenic drivers is essential to formulate an effective water policy. Traditional approaches to hydrologic attribution rely on the ability to infer hydrological processes through the development of catchment-scale hydrological models. However, such approaches are challenging to implement in practice due to limitations in using models to accurately associate changes in observed outcomes with corresponding drivers. Here we present an alternative approach that leverages the method of multiple hypotheses to attribute changes in streamflow in the Upper Jhelum watershed, an important tributary headwater region of the Indus basin, where a dramatic decline in streamflow since 2000 has yet to be adequately attributed to its corresponding drivers. We generate and empirically evaluate a series of alternative and complementary hypotheses concerning distinct components of the water balance. This process allows a holistic understanding of watershed-scale processes to be developed, even though the catchment-scale water balance remains open. Using remote sensing and secondary data, we explore changes in climate, surface water, and groundwater. The evidence reveals that climate, rather than land use, had a considerably stronger influence on reductions in streamflow, both through reduced precipitation and increased evapotranspiration. Baseflow analyses suggest different mechanisms affecting streamflow decline in upstream and downstream regions, respectively. These findings offer promising avenues for future research in the Upper Jhelum watershed, and an alternative approach to hydrological attribution in data-scarce regions.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A690344325