Water Resource Allocation for Tourism, Agriculture and Energy

Water-management issue

The Guadalfeo River Basin is a 1345 km2 Mediterranean mountainous coastal watershed in the Sierra Nevada National Park (Southeastern Spain).Its highly variable precipitation and snow regime determines water availability at the seasonal and annual scales. Urban supply, tourism and agriculture, together with hydropower generation at the headwaters compete for water during the warm season. The future climatic context poses a risk for the current supply system and water resource availability on a long term basis. Climate services provide an open framework to assess the seasonality expected shifts associated to changes in the snow regime, and to estimate their impact on the decision making process. Also, they allow developing operational strategies both in the medium and long term.

Decision support to client

Results will assess the prevision of water allocation success on an annual and decadal basis in the new planning hydrological cycle, and they will provide a deeper insight on the potential future seasonal regime. In addition, limiting the uncertainty associated with the projections will help to improve the quality of the results and the client's understanding of them.

Temporal and spatial scale

Temporal and spatial scales required  depend on the needs of each client. First, daily data scales are used and then aggregated to the desired final scale (daily, monthly or annual). The final local results will be given in significant points associated with each specific case. Therefore, data at catchment scale or 30x30 m grid are required.

Climate Indicators

Pan-European and local indicators

Historical and projected evolutions of precipitation, temperature, radiation, and riverflow are used. These Essential Climate Variables are aimed at obtaining specific local indicators associated with the variables required for users’ decision-making process.

Case study workflow

1 Extracting Climate projections and impacts: Pan-European series of climate data (i.e. precipitation and temperature) and flow are collected for both a reference period (30-40 years) and the current water planning cycle (last 5-10 years), together with the selected future scenarios in the analysis.

2 Snow evolution and river flow simulations: The snow evolution for the different study periods is simulated together with the impact on the river flow at three control points associated to the client cases. The flow results are aggregated to the appropriate time scale for each client needs.

3 Downscaling to a high spatial resolution: Climate projections are downscaled to the local control points from the validated simulations of river flow from local model, WiMMed. WiMMed is a physically-based hydrological model for mountain areas working on a grid size of 30x30 m to meet a close representation of the high spatial variability found at this area due to the abrupt topography and altitudinal gradients. Data from local weather and gauge stations are also collected.

4 Assessment of changes: From the results, the annomalies of river flow at different time scales (monthly,seasonal or annual) are estimated at each control point, and their impact on the water resource availability is assessed for each client (small hydropower facility at the head area, urban supply at the southern area, and  water management decision makers).

5 Integrated river basin management: Combination of the changes in river flow, hydropower operationality, crop vulnerability, environmental flow regime and regulation&storage needs into a decision-support system for multiple-use of the reservoirs and hydraulic systems in the basin.

6 Adaptation strategies: Final analysis of long-term changes in both climate-water resources and socio-economyfor  re-considering the present water permits in the framework of the current planning cycle and defining  a sustainable strategy for water allocation in the short and long term. The performance of the SWICCA-CCIs for climate-proof decisions in water resource planning is highlighted as a final result.

Importance and Relevance of Adaptation

The regional and economic development of this area is highly dependent on the snow regulation of river flows. The impact of the future climate on this water reservoir is expected to produce at least significant changes in the seasonal availability of river flow, and so impacts on the water supply and energy production systems.
Knowledge about the changes in this seasonal regime allows the provision of adaptation strategies further than adapting water planning rules. For instance, “the information will assess our position regarding building or restoring hydraulic structures; if the low-flows season expands and water availability during the summer season is menaced, we will have to explore new alternatives such as desalination, or limiting irrigation areas by means of soil use planning in the future decades”. The inclusion of three clients as reference users provide a sound basis to design an integrated river basin management tool, which will further facilitate the development of adaptation strategies.

Scientific Publications

Planned publications resulting from this study:

Assessing co-development of improved climate services in the water sector from climate projections. Publication in a indexed journal.

Added value of co-development for climate services: lessons learned from examples in the water sector. Publication in a indexed journal

Local testing of the future resilience of a multi-objective reservoir operation system from climate services on a Pan-European scale. Publication in a indexed journal

Read latest progress here!

Consultancy or Knowledge Purveyors

Fluvial Dynamics and Hydrology Research Group, University of Córdoba (UCO); Spain


Tropical Coast of Granada, Municipalities Community

Endesa Hydropower Generation, Unit Sur

Water Planning Office Andalusian Department of Environment.


María J. Polo Gómez, Rafael Pimentel Leiva, Maria J. Pérez-Palazón, UCO

Website: http://www.uco.es/dfh/