Published November 9, 2021 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Impacts of climate change on groundwater droughts by means of standardized indices and regional climate models

  • 1. Università di Parma, Italy


While this version is embargoed, a copy is freely available in the ArXiv repository in the following link:

This paper investigates the impacts of climate change on groundwater droughts making use of regional projections and standardized indices: the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and the Standardized Groundwater Index (SGI). The method adopted, using historical precipitation and temperature data and water levels collected in monitoring wells, first investigates the possible correlations between meteorological and groundwater indices at each well. Then, if there is a correlation, a linear regression analysis is used to model the relationships between SGIs and SPIs, and SGIs and SPEIs. The same relationships are used to infer future SGIs from SPI and SPEI projections obtained by means of an ensemble of Regional Climate Models (RCMs), under different climate scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5). This methodology has been applied to data collected in northern Tuscany (Italy) in an area served by a water company, where historical series of daily climate variables (since 1934) and daily records for 16 wells, covering the period 2005–2020, are available. The impacts on groundwater have been computed in the short- (2006–2035), medium- (2036–2065) and long-term (2066–2095). The analysis indicates that, in the historical period and for most of the monitoring wells, there is a good correlation between SGIs and SPIs or SPEIs. The results point out that making use of the SGI-SPI relationships, slight variations in the availability of groundwater are expected in the future. However, in a global warming scenario, the influence of temperature on evapotranspiration phenomena cannot be overlooked and, for this reason, the SGI-SPEI relationships seem more suitable to forecast groundwater droughts. According to these relationships, negative effects on groundwater levels in almost all wells are estimated for the future. For the RCP 4.5 scenario, the largest decline in groundwater level is expected in the medium-term, while for the RCP 8.5 scenario future SGIs will significantly decrease over the long-term. Due to the type of data required and its simplicity, this methodology can be applied to different areas of interest for a quick estimate of groundwater availability under climate change scenarios. 


This project is part of the PRIMA Programme supported by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No 1923.



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