EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Disentangling human influences on hydrological drought

Gemma Coxon1, John P Bloomfield2, Hilary McMillan3, Louisa Oldham1, Francesca Pianosi4, Saskia Salwey1, Doris Wendt4, and Yanchen Zheng1,4
Gemma Coxon et al.
  • 1Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
  • 2British Geological Survey, Wallingford, United Kingdom
  • 3Geography, San Diego State University, United States
  • 4School of Civil Engineering, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Human influences can both intensify or mitigate hydrological droughts significantly altering their severity, duration, and frequency via non-linear and dynamic feedbacks. Despite their large influence, current understanding of when, where and to what degree, human-water interactions modify hydrological drought is lacking. One of the key reasons for this is the scarce availability of quantitative human water use data as they are typically considered commercially sensitive and hard to obtain. Consequently, we often rely on static, low-resolution indicators of human water use (such as global water use databases) or qualitative information on human water use, when in reality human-water interactions are highly place-specific and non-stationary over time due to changes in water management and policies.

In this study, we will disentangle human influences on hydrological droughts using observational hydro-meteorological and groundwater data and a unique dataset of spatially explicit, time-varying abstractions and discharges for a large sample of catchments across England. Building on recent work to quantify and detect human influences, we will use a suite of hydrological signatures to characterise deviations in droughts and low flows from a large sample of benchmark (i.e. near-natural) catchments. We will link these deviations to different characteristics of the abstractions data (e.g. seasonal catchment averages, abstraction purpose) and to key water management schemes (e.g. low flow alleviation schemes). In doing so, we will advance our current understanding of how humans influence hydrological droughts and how we can improve the collection of human-water use data for future environmental analyses.

How to cite: Coxon, G., Bloomfield, J. P., McMillan, H., Oldham, L., Pianosi, F., Salwey, S., Wendt, D., and Zheng, Y.: Disentangling human influences on hydrological drought, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-3569,, 2023.