South Korea endured extreme drought through 2015 and 2016. This hydrological drought led to a socio-economic drought which is a restriction on stream water use. Previous studies have explored streamflow drought using a threshold level based on flow duration curves, but streamflow drought does not necessarily lead to stream water deficit, which is related to water demand. Therefore, this study introduced a threshold for stream water deficit in South Korea, which is termed as river management flow, and was applied to Geum River Basin where a severe drought recently occurred. The stream water coordination council has restricted the use of stream water to cope with the stream water deficit. The deficit characteristics for the upstream and downstream river management flow should be similar in order to ensure the feasibility of stream water restrictions. Thus, upstream and downstream river management flows, which reproduced similar deficit characteristics to those of the reference site, were estimated. The deficit characteristics of Bugang and Gyuam were estimated from their river management flows for the 2015 drought and were comparable to those of Gongju. We expect this study to minimize the conflict between upstream and downstream water users in future.
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