The impact of projected changes in climate variability on the reliability of surface water supply in Scotland

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Projected changes in precipitation and evapotranspiration under climate change and their impacts on the reliability of six water storage reservoirs and two river intake schemes in Scotland are examined. A conceptual rainfall–runoff model was used to simulate catchment runoff which, together with evapotranspiration, served as inputs into a reservoir model. Outputs from a regional climate model coupled with a weather generator indicate an increase in rainfall variability and evapotranspiration throughout the 21st century, resulting in a decrease in both the time-based and volumetric reliability of the reservoirs under the assumption of an unchanging demand, albeit with a less drastic reduction for the volumetric approach. It was found that the variability of rainfall had the greatest effect on reservoir reliability, outweighing the positive effect of an increase in total annual precipitation, while evapotranspiration had a lesser impact. A more drastic reduction in reliability was observed for the river intake schemes given their lack of storage capacity. The increase in water demand based on demographic projections further reduced reservoir reliability, especially when monthly variations in demand were taken into account. This paper concludes by suggesting adaptive strategies to deal with the projected changes in the supply and demand for water.

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