Articles | Volume 366
10 Apr 2015
 | 10 Apr 2015

What part of natural flow can be considered a "water resource"?

V. Andréassian, J. Margat, G. Thirel, and P. Hubert

Abstract. In this paper, we discuss an unfortunate semantic shortcut – the use of the expression "water resources" as a synonym for "river/groundwater flow" – which causes great confusion in all Water Security-related discussions. We show that only a part of the flow can be considered a resource, and that the efficiency of the flow-to-resource conversion is a complex function of: (i) the hydrologic regime, (ii) environmental constraints (in-stream reserved flows), (iii) the type of water demand, and (iv) the existence of artificial reservoirs. Last, we illustrate how the flow-to-resource conversion can be affected by future climatic changes. Hydrologic data and climate change simulations for three French rivers (the rivers Vilaine, Durance and Garonne) are used to illustrate this discussion.