A Rapid Method to Estimate the Different Components of the Water Balance in Mediterranean Watersheds
The sustainable management of water resources, whether surface or underground, requires the identification of the flows involved and the possibility of achieving the water balance of the water resource. These require knowledge of the main flow components with a sufficient level of accuracy. Hydrological simulation models are valuable tools for studying flow at the watershed scale but rely on data that are rarely available; therefore, they require the implementation of field investigations.
... is thus a need for simple and practical tools for studying the functioning of a watershed and identifying the different components of the flows. In this paper, a method that uses only weather data, volumes of water abstraction by pumping or diversion, and flows measured at the outlet is proposed. The use of cumulative multi-year curves of measured flows or rainfall provides an assessment of the unknown flows that can take place in the watershed, as well as the order of the respective magnitudes of fast and slow flows. Its application to 20 French Mediterranean watersheds shows that it is possible to properly estimate the order of magnitude of losses or gains linked to karst flows and irrigation input. External inflows or outflows can represent up to 150% of the flow measured at the outlet. The annual volumes estimated by using this method are indeed very close (R2 = 93%) to those provided by existing knowledge. The proposed method can constitute a first approach for the quantification of flows and help to guide the implementation of field investigations and more sophisticated approaches such as hydrological modelling.