The assessment of future climate changes on drought and water scarcity is extremely important for water resources management. A modeling system is developed to study the potential status of hydrological drought and water scarcity in the future, and this modeling system is applied to the Jinghe River Basin (JRB) of China. Driven by high-resolution climate projections from the Regional Climate Modeling System (RegCM), the Variable Infiltration Capacity model is employed to produce future streamflow projections (2020–2099) under two Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios. The copula-based method is applied to identify the correlation between drought variables (i.e., duration and severity), and to further quantify their joint risks. Based on a variety of hypothetical water use scenarios in the future, the water scarcity conditions including extreme cases are estimated through the Water Exploitation Index Plus (WEI+) indicator. The results indicate that the joint risks of drought variables at different return periods would decrease. In detail, the severity of future drought events would become less serious under different RCP scenarios when compared with that in the historical period. However, considering the increase in water consumption in the future, the water scarcity in JRB may not be alleviated in the future, and thus drought assessment alone may underestimate the severity of future water shortage. The results obtained from the modeling system can help policy makers to develop reasonable future water-saving planning schemes, as well as drought mitigation measures.
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