Whether river flows remain stationary is of great concern to hydrologists, water engineers, and society in general, yet is subject to substantial debate. Here we provide the first comprehensive assessment of the long-term stationarity of annual streamflow for 11 069 catchments globally. Our observation-based evidence shows that the long-term annual streamflow remains stationary in 79% of catchments with minimal human disturbance, indicating that historical climate change alone has not led to non-stationarity in annual streamflow series in most catchments. In direct contrast, we found streamflow has remained stationary in only 38% of those catchments where substantial human interventions have occurred. These results demonstrate the scale of the human impact on the freshwater system, and highlight the ongoing need for dealing with the impacts of direct human interventions to ensure successful water management into the future.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Environmental Science(all)
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment