Analysis of the Evolution of Climatic and Hydrological Variables in the Tagus River Basin, Spain

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During the second half of the 20th century, several Spanish rivers experienced a decrease in the availability of water resources which coincided with an increase in human water demands. This situation is expected to be exacerbated by climate change. This study analyses the evolution of annual streamflow in 16 sub-basins of the Tagus River basin (Spain) during the 1950–2010 period and its relationship with selected variables. Our main objective is to characterize changes in in-stream flows and to identify what factors could have contributed to them. First, we used non-parametric tests to detect trends in the hydro-climatic series. Then, we analyzed changes in the runoff coefficient and applied regression-based techniques to detect anthropic drivers that could have influenced the observed trends. The analysis revealed a general decreasing trend in streamflow and an increasing trend in air temperature, while trends in precipitation are less clear. Residuals from regression models indicate that the evolution of several non-climatic factors is likely to have influenced the decline in streamflow. Our results suggest that the combination of the expansion of forested areas (a 60% increase from 1950 to 2010) and irrigated land (a 400% increase since 1950) could have played an important role in the reduction of streamflow in the Tagus basin.
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