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The cumulative impacts of small reservoirs on hydrology: A review

Abstract : The number of small reservoirs has increased due to their reduced cost, the availability of many favourable locations, and their easy access due to proximity. The cumulative impacts of such small reservoirs are not easy to estimate, even when solely considering hydrology, which is partially due to the difficulty in collecting data on the functioning of such reservoirs. However, there is evidence indicating that the cumulative impacts of such reservoirs are significant. The aim of this article is to present a review of the studies that address the cumulative impacts of small reservoirs on hydrology, focusing on the methodology and on the way in which these impacts are assessed. Most of the studies addressing the hydrological cumulative impacts focused on the annual stream discharge, with decreases ranging from 0.2% to 36% with a mean value of 13.4% ± 8% over approximately 30 references. However, it is shown that similar densities of small reservoirs can lead to different impacts on stream discharge in different regions. This result is probably due to the hydro-climatic conditions and makes defining simple indicators to provide a first guess of the cumulative impacts difficult. The impacts also vary in time, with a more intense reduction in the river discharge during the dry years than during the wet years. This finding is certainly an important point to take into consideration in the context of climate change. Two methods are mostly used to estimate cumulative impacts: i) exclusively data-based methods and ii) models. The assumptions, interests and shortcomings of these methods are presented. Scientific tracks are proposed to address the four main shortcomings, namely the estimation of the associated uncertainties, the lack of knowledge on reservoir characteristics and water abstraction and the accuracy of the impact indicators.
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Florence Habets, Jérôme Molenat, Nadia Carluer, Olivier Douez, Delphine Leenhardt. The cumulative impacts of small reservoirs on hydrology: A review. Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2018, 643, pp.850-867. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.06.188⟩. ⟨hal-01905701⟩

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