Effect of Urbanization and Climate Change on Hydrological Processes over the San Antonio River Basin, Texas



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With the rapid population growth and economic development in the State of Texas, a fast urbanization process has occurred over the past several decades. The direct consequences of the increased impervious area are greater surface runoff and higher flood peaks. Meanwhile, climate change has led to more frequent extreme events. Therefore, a thorough understanding of the hydrological processes under urbanization and climate change is indispensable for sustainable water management. In this investigation, a case study was conducted by applying the Distributed Hydrology Soil Vegetation Model (DHSVM) to the San Antonio River Basin (SARB), Texas. Hosting the seventh largest city in the U.S. (i.e., City of San Antonio), the SARB is vulnerable to both floods and droughts. A set of historical and future land cover maps were assembled to represent the urbanization process. Two forcing datasets were employed to drive the DHSVM model. The first is a long-term observation based dataset (1915-2011), which was used as inputs for calibrating and validating DHSVM, as well as evaluating the urbanization effect. The second is the statistically downscaled climate simulations (1950-2099) from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5), which were applied for understanding impacts related to climate change. Results show that urbanization exerts a much larger influence on streamflow than climate change does. Under the same observed forcings, annual average streamflow increased from 28.12 m^3/s (with 1929 land cover) to 50.34 m^3/s (with 2011 land cover). As for climate change, results suggest that it will exacerbate the drought severity ? with reduced evapotranspiration and soil moisture caused by decreased precipitation. However, the projected future streamflow does not show a clear increasing or decreasing trend. Regarding the combined effect from urbanization and climate change, the results indicate that the seasonal streamflow magnitude will be notably changed. Furthermore, with significantly decreased evapotranspiration and slightly increased soil moisture, more water will be available for streamflow, increasing the possibility of flood risk in the region.