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Distinguishing the effects of climate on discharge in a tropical river highly impacted by large dams

Genz, F., Luz, L.D.
Hydrological sciences journal 2012 v.57 no.5 pp. 1020-1034
climatic factors, humans, rivers, stream flow, water power, watersheds, Brazil
The hydrological regime of a river is defined by variables or representative curves that in turn have characteristics related to fluctuations in flow rates resulting from climate variability. Distinguishing between the causes of streamflow variations, i.e. those resulting from human intervention in the watershed and those due to climate variability, is not trivial. To discriminate the alterations resulting from climate variation from those due to regulation by dams, a reference hydrological regime was established using the classification of events based on mean annual streamflow anomalies and inferred climatic conditions. The applicability of this approach was demonstrated by analysis of the streamflow duration curves. An assessment of the hydrological regime in the lower reaches of the São Francisco River, Brazil, after the implementation of hydropower plants showed that the operation of the dams has been responsible for 59% of the hydrological changes, while the climate (in driest conditions) has contributed to 41% of the total changes.