Drought is a water deficit state caused by large-scale climate change that cannot be avoided by a water resource management system. Water scarcity refers to the unsustainable utilization of water resources over a long time, which is the result of water management policies. However, water deficits caused by drought and water scarcity often occur simultaneously and are indistinguishable. This study proposes a model-based simulation framework that can quantitatively distinguish natural factors (drought) from human factors (water scarcity) in a hydrological system. The simulation was applied to the Zhangweinan Canal Basin, based on the runoff sequences from 1950 to 2004. The results show that the runoff curve number, soil depth, soil available water, soil evaporation compensation coefficient, base runoff α coefficient and the maximum canopy interception have the highest sensitivity to runoff, and that the calibrated and validated SWAT model can effectively simulate the runoff process in the Zhangweinan Canal Basin and similar areas. Abrupt changes in human activities in 1975 and water scarcity led to the disappearance of the summer peak runoff period in both wet and dry years. Human factors are the main reason for the change in the hydrological system in the study area; the runoff loss caused by human factors is four times that caused by natural factors according to the proposed variable threshold. This study proposes a model-based simulation framework that can help water resource managers to distinguish the effects of drought and water scarcity in water-stressed areas and adjust management accordingly.
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