Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-537
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Research article
11 Sep 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
How downstream sub-basins depend on upstream inflows to avoid scarcity: typology and global analysis of transboundary rivers
Hafsa Ahmed Munia1, Joseph Guillaume1, Naho Mirumachi2, Yoshihide Wada3,4,5, and Kummu Matti1 1Water and Development Research Group, Aalto University, Tietotie 1E, Espoo 02150, Finland
2Department of Geography, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, UK
3NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, USA
4Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025, USA
5Department of Physical Geography, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 2, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands
Abstract. Countries sharing river basins are often dependent upon water originating outside their boundaries; meaning that without that upstream water, water scarcity may occur, with flow-on implications for water use and management. We develop a formalisation of this concept using water stress and shortage as indicators of water scarcity, and including both persistent and occasional scarcity. Dependency occurs if water from upstream is needed to avoid either persistent or occasional water scarcity. This can be diagnosed by comparing different types of water availability on which a sub-basin relies, starting with reliable local runoff (available even in a dry year), followed by less reliable local water (available in the wet year), reliable dry year inflows from possible upstream area, and finally less reliable wet year inflows from upstream. At the same time, possible upstream water withdrawals reduce available water downstream, influencing the latter two water availabilities. In this paper, we further present a typology describing how scarcity and dependency evolve in transboundary river basins, and use this typology for a global analysis of transboundary river basins at the scale of sub-basin areas (SBAs). Four groups of SBAs are identified that experience scarcity and dependency differently depending on their i) location in the basin, and ii) hydro-climate characteristics, specifically the level of reliable support provided by natural upstream inflows. Each group has its own set of transitions in scarcity and dependency category, driven by changes in local water demand and/or upstream withdrawals. Our results show that almost one billion people (33 % of the total transboundary population) live in SBAs that are dependent on upstream water to avoid stress because of their own water use, while 500 million people (17 % of the total transboundary population) live in SBAs dependent on upstream water to avoid possible shortage. The identification of groups and their transitions enables discussion of the pathways SBAs might take in future, potentially contributing to further refined analysis of inter and intrabasin hydro-political power relations and strategic planning of management practices in transboundary basins.

Citation: Munia, H. A., Guillaume, J., Mirumachi, N., Wada, Y., and Matti, K.: How downstream sub-basins depend on upstream inflows to avoid scarcity: typology and global analysis of transboundary rivers, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-537, in review, 2017.
Hafsa Ahmed Munia et al.
Hafsa Ahmed Munia et al.
Hafsa Ahmed Munia et al.

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