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River flow drought

Indicator Specification Created 11 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 24 Apr 2014, 10:00 AM
Note: new version is available!
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Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Justification for indicator selection

Drought may refer to meteorological drought (precipitation well below average), hydrological drought (low river flows, lake and groundwater levels), agricultural drought (soil moisture deficit), environmental drought (impact on ecosystems) or socio-economic drought (impact on economic goods and services). The focus here is on hydrological drought, more specifically on river flow drought, as river flow is a measure of sustainable fresh water availability in a basin and is affected by climate change. River flow data are also more available than other hydrometric information such as groundwater recharge, surface water storage and soil moisture. Climate-induced trends in extreme low river flows are however often masked by land-use change, water management practices and extensive water withdrawals.
Prolonged droughts have considerable economic, societal and environmental impacts. They affect several sectors, such as energy production, both in terms of water availability for hydropower and cooling water for electricity generation, river navigation, agriculture, and public water supply.
Adverse effects of droughts and low river flow conditions can be mitigated on the supply side through the combined use of surface and groundwater, desalination of sea water, and water storage and transfer. Demand-side measures include improving water efficiency, metering, and water pricing. Shortages of water can be anticipated through effective monitoring and forecasting of future river flows and storage in reservoirs.

Scientific references:

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

  • Change in the severity of river flow droughts in Europe 1962-1990
  • Change in the severity of river flow droughts in France 1960-2000
  • Projected change in mean annual and summer minimum 7-day 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.

External data references

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 018
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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