The Mirage Water Concept and an Index-Based Approach to Quantify Causes of Hydrological Changes in Semi-Arid Regions

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In semi-arid regions, reduced river flows present is a major challenge in water resources management. We present a new standardized contribution of rainfall to runoff index (SCRI) for evaluating changes in rainfall contribution to river flow. We employ the standardized precipitation index (SPI), standardized discharge index (SDI) and SCRI to characterize meteorological drought, hydrological drought and land-use change impacts on river flow, respectively. These indices are applied to the Mond River Basin (Iran), which is regulated by the Salman Farsi and Tangab dams since 2006. A new concept called “mirage water” is proposed that represents the reduced water delivery to downstream areas due to new developments and water withdrawals in headwater tributaries. In particular, mirage water accounts for changes in upstream water consumption between the planning phase and construction/operation life of dams. We recommend that this concept be used for communication with decision-makers and managers to clarify the need for revising dimensions of planned dams.