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River flow

Indicator Specification Created 11 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 04 Sep 2015, 06:59 PM
Note: new version is available!
Topics: ,
Indicator codes: CLIM 016

Update planned for November 2012

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)


Justification for indicator selection

Water is an indispensable resource for human health, ecosystems and socio-economic activity. From a resource perspective, river flow is a measure of sustainable fresh water availability in a basin. Variations in river flow are determined mainly by the seasonality of precipitation and temperature, as well as by catchment characteristics such as geology, soils and land cover. River flow can be used as an indicator because changes in temperature and precipitation patterns due to global warming modify the distribution of water at the land surface, and consequently the annual water budget of river basins as well as the timing and seasonality of river flows. The consequent changes in water availability may adversely affect ecosystems and several socio-economic sectors such as water management, energy production, navigation, irrigation and tourism.
In view of projected global warming and the associated changes in water availability, it will become increasingly important to balance competing societal, industrial, agricultural and environmental demands. Sustainable options for mitigating the effects of changes in water availability include improved water efficiency, the re-use of water, and metering and water pricing to stimulate awareness and encourage water conservation.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

  • Modelled change in annual river flow between 1971-1998 and 1900-1970
  • Projected change in mean seasonal and annual river flow between 2071-2100 and the reference period 1961-1990
  • Projected change in daily average river flow between 2071-2100 and the reference period 1961-1990


Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified


Methodology for indicator calculation

Methodology for gap filling

Methodology references

No methodology references available.

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Wouter Vanneuville


Joint Research Centre (JRC)
European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 016
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change


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DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

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Data references used

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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