The objective of this study was to apply a previously developed large-scale and high-resolution SWAT model of the Vistula and the Odra basins, calibrated with the focus of natural flow simulation, in order to assess the impact of three different dam reservoirs on streamflow using the Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration (IHA). A tailored spatial calibration approach was designed, in which calibration was focused on a large set of relatively small non-nested sub-catchments with semi-natural flow regime. These were classified into calibration clusters based on the flow statistics similarity. After performing calibration and validation that gave overall positive results, the calibrated parameter values were transferred to the remaining part of the basins using an approach based on hydrological similarity of donor and target catchments. The calibrated model was applied in three case studies with the purpose of assessing the effect of dam reservoirs (Włocławek, Siemianówka and Czorsztyn Reservoirs) on streamflow alteration. Both the assessment based on gauged streamflow (Before-After design) and the one based on simulated natural streamflow showed large alterations in selected flow statistics related to magnitude, duration, high and low flow pulses and rate of change. Some benefits of using a large-scale and high-resolution hydrological model for the assessment of streamflow alteration include: (1) providing an alternative or complementary approach to the classical Before-After designs, (2) isolating the climate variability effect from the dam (or any other source of alteration) effect, (3) providing a practical tool that can be applied at a range of spatial scales over large area such as a country, in a uniform way. Thus, presented approach can be applied for designing more natural flow regimes, which is crucial for river and floodplain ecosystem restoration in the context of the European Union’s policy on environmental flows.
Availible at: http://www.proc-iahs.net/373/101/2016/