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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  16 Apr 2020

16 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Irrigation, damming, and streamflow fluctuations of the Yellow River

Zun Yin1,2, Catherine Ottlé1, Philippe Ciais1, Feng Zhou3, Xuhui Wang3, Polcher Jan2, Patrice Dumas4, Shushi Peng3, Laurent Li2, Xudong Zhou2,5,6, and Shilong Piao3 Zun Yin et al.
  • 1Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, IPSL, CNRS–CEA–UVSQ, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 2Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, IPSL UPMC/CNRS, Paris 75005, France
  • 3Sino – French Institute for Earth System Science, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
  • 4Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement, Avenue Agropolis, 34398 Montpellier CEDEX 5, France
  • 5Institute of Industrial Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
  • 6State Key Laboratory of Hydrology–Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Center for Global Change and Water Cycle, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China

Abstract. The streamflow of the Yellow River is strongly affected by human activities of irrigation and dam regulation. Many attribution studies focused on the long-term trend of discharge, yet the contributions of these anthropogenic factors to streamflow fluctuations have not been well quantified. This study aims to quantify the roles of irrigation and artificial reservoirs in monthly streamflow fluctuations of the Yellow River from 1982 to 2014 by using the global land surface model ORCHIDEE with a new developed irrigation module, and a separate offline dam operation model. Validation with obsevations demonstrates the ability of our model in simulating the main hydrological processes under human disturbances in the Yellow River basin. Irrigation is found to be the dominant factor leading to 63.7 % reduction of the annual discharges. It might lead to discharge increase in the summer if irrigation is widely applied during a dry spring. After illustrating dam regulation as the primary driver affecting streamflow seasonality, we simulated the changes of water storages in several large artificial reservoirs by a new developed dam model, which does not require any prior knowledge from observations but only implements two simple operation rules based on their inherent regulation capacities: reducing peak flows for flood control and securing base flows during the dry season. Inclusion of dams with this simplified model substantially improved the simulated discharge by at least 42 %. Moreover, simulated water storage changes of the LongYangXia and LiuJiaXia dams coincide well with observations with a high correlation value of about 0.9. We also found that the artificial reservoirs can affect the inter-annual fluctuations of the streamflows, which however was not reproduced faithfully by our dam model due to lack of annual operation rules. From the mismatches between simulations and observations, we inferred the potential impacts of multiple medium reservoirs and five large irrigation districts (e.g., the Hetao Plateau), which were ignored in most previous hydrological studies.

Zun Yin et al.

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Zun Yin et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
We improved the irrigation module in a land surface model and developed a dam operation model in aim to investigate how these human activities affect the discharge of the Yellow River in China. The results show that the irrigation mainly result in the decrease of the discharge. The dam operations, however, mainly affect the river discharge fluctuations. By considering only two operation rules: flood control and base flow guarantee, our dam model can sustainably improve the simulation accuracy.
We improved the irrigation module in a land surface model and developed a dam operation model in...