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Keywords:

  • Three Gorges Reservoir;
  • hydrological droughts;
  • downstream effects;
  • naturalized discharges;
  • standardized streamflow index

Abstract

Since the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) was put into operation in June 2003, the effects of the TGR on downstream hydrology and water resources have become the focus of public attention. This article examines the effects of the TGR on the hydrological droughts at the downstream Yichang hydrological station during 2003–2011. The two-parameter monthly water balance model was used to generate the monthly discharges at the Yichang station for the period of 2003–2011 to represent the unregulated flow regime and thus to provide a comparison benchmark for the observed flow series at the Yichang station after the operation of the TGR. To provide a reference series for the observed monthly discharge series of the entire study period of 1951–2011, we constructed the naturalized monthly discharge series at the Yichang station by joining the observed monthly discharge at the Yichang station for the period of 1951–2002 and the two-parameter monthly water balance simulated monthly runoff at the Yichang station for the period of 2003–2011. For both the observed and naturalized monthly discharge series of 1951–2011, the hydrological drought index series were calculated using the standardized streamflow index method. By comparing the drought indices of these two monthly discharge series, we investigated the effects of the TGR on the hydrological droughts at the downstream Yichang station during 2003–2011. The results show that the hydrological droughts at the downstream Yichang station are slightly aggravated by the TGR's initial operation from 2003 to 2011. The river flow reduction at the Yichang station after impoundment of the TGR might account for the downstream drought aggravation. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.