Modeling the hydroclimatic effects of local land use and land cover changes on the water budget in the upper Euphrates - Tigris basin

Yilmaz Y. A., Şen Ö. L., Turuncoglu U. U.

JOURNAL OF HYDROLOGY, vol.576, pp.596-609, 2019 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 576
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2019.06.074
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.596-609
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The waters of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers have always been a vital resource in the water-food-energy nexus of the Middle East region. The currently ongoing Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) in Turkey aims to increase regional prosperity by optimizing the use of these waters for irrigation and hydropower. Since the beginning of the 1990s, the irrigation schemes and water management infrastructures within the scope of the GAP have caused significant land use and land cover (LULC) change in this semi-arid region. We employed a high resolution regional climate model to simulate the effects of irrigation induced LULC changes on the regional water and energy balances. For this purpose, historical simulations were conducted by using three land cover distributions which reflect the increase in irrigation and water surfaces. Our experiment reveals that water loss through evapotranspiration increases significantly with the areal expansion of irrigation. This increase is driven by the change in partitioning of the available energy at the surface between turbulent heat fluxes. On the one hand, a significant reduction in sensible heat flux causes local cooling by around 0.4 degrees C and 0.8 degrees C for the current and future irrigation conditions, respectively. On the other hand, the increase in latent heat flux enhances evapotranspiration and consequently atmospheric water vapor concentration. The moistening of a shallower boundary layer triggers the formation of convective clouds, which increases convective precipitation, most notably during the irrigation months. The enhanced water loss through evapotranspiration has potential to significantly alter the water budget of the GAP region. It seems that the water surplus of the headwaters region may not be enough to meet the water deficit of the GAP region in the future if the planned irrigation schemes are carried out to completion.