The consequences of climate change on food security in arid and semi-arid regions can be serious. Understanding climate change impacts on water balance is critical to assess future crop performance and develop sustainable adaptation strategies. This paper presents a climate change impact study on the water balance components of an agricultural watershed in the Mediterranean region. The restructured version of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT+) model was used to simulate the hydrological components in the Sulcis watershed (Sardinia, Italy) for the baseline period and compared to future climate projections at the end of the 21st century. The model was forced using data from two Regional Climate Models under the representative concentration pathways RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 scenarios developed at a high resolution over the European domain. River discharge data were used to calibrate and validate the SWAT+ model for the baseline period, while the future hydrological response was evaluated for the mid-century (2006–2050) and late-century (2051–2098). The model simulations indicated a future increase in temperature, decrease in precipitation, and consequently increase in potential evapotranspiration in both RCP scenarios. Results show that these changes will significantly decrease water yield, surface runoff, groundwater recharge, and baseflow. These results highlight how hydrological components alteration by climate change can benefit from modelling high-resolution future scenarios that are useful for planning mitigation measures in agricultural semi-arid Mediterranean regions.
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