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Water Resources Research


This work presents a set of methods to evaluate the potential effects of landscape changes on water supplies. Potential impacts are a function of the seasonality of precipitation, losses of water to evapotranspiration and deep recharge, the flow-regulating ability of watersheds, and the availability of reservoir storage. For a given reservoir capacity, simple reservoir simulations with daily precipitation and streamflow enable the determination of the maximum steady supply of water for both the existing watershed and a hypothetical counter-factual that has neither flow-regulating benefits nor any losses. These two supply values, representing land use end-members, create an envelope that defines the water-supply service and bounds the effect of landscape change on water supply. These bounds can be used to discriminate between water supplies that may be vulnerable to landscape change and those that are unlikely to be affected. Two indices of the water-supply service exhibit substantial variability across 593 watersheds in the continental United States. Rcross, the reservoir capacity at which landscape change is unlikely to have any detrimental effect on water supply has an interquartile range of 0.14–4% of mean-annual-streamflow. Steep, forested watersheds with seasonal climates tend to have greater service values, and the indices of water-supply service are positively correlated with runoff ratios during the months with lowest flows.





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