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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-227
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-227
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 20 May 2019

Submitted as: research article | 20 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript was accepted for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

Global scale human pressure evolution imprints on sustainability of river systems

Serena Ceola1, Francesco Laio2, and Alberto Montanari1 Serena Ceola et al.
  • 1Department of Civil, Chemical, Environmental and Materials Engineering, University of Bologna, Bologna, IT-40136, Italy
  • 2Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure Engineering, Politecnico di Torino, Torino, IT-10129, Italy

Abstract. Human pressures on river systems pose a major threat to the sustainable development of human societies in the twenty first century, with severe implications for anthropogenic activities and river ecosystems. Previous studies showed that a large part of the global population was exposed to relevant threats to water security already at the beginning of this century. A relevant question, which was never explored by the literature so far, is whether these threats are increasing in time, therefore representing a potential future challenge to the sustainability of river systems. This paper proposes a simple, objective and effective index we call Differential Human Pressure on Rivers (DHPR) to measure the annual evolution of human pressure on river systems. DHPR identifies a per year percentage increment (or decrement) of normalized human pressures (i.e., ratio of annual values to long term average). This index, based on annual nightlights and time invariant discharge data, is estimated for 2195 major river basins over a period of 22 years, from 1992 to 2013. The results show that normalized annual human pressure on river systems increased globally by a DHPR value equal on average to 1.9 % and that the greatest increase occurred within the northern tropical and equatorial areas. The evaluation of DHPR over this 22 year period allows the identification of hot spot areas, therefore offering guidance on where the development and implementation of mitigation strategies and plans are most needed (i.e., where human pressure is strongly increasing).

Serena Ceola et al.
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Serena Ceola et al.
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Short summary
A simple and effective index for the quantitative estimation of the evolution of human pressure on rivers at global scale is proposed. This index shows a significant increase from 1992 to 2013 worldwide. The most notable changes are occurring in river basins across Africa and Asia, where human pressure on rivers is growing markedly. This index identifies priority areas that can be targeted for the development and implementation of mitigation strategies and plans.
A simple and effective index for the quantitative estimation of the evolution of human pressure...
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