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Compendium on methods and tools to evaluate impacts of, and vulnerability and adaptation to, climate change

Spatial Tools for River Basins and Environment and Analysis of Management Options (STREAM)

STREAM is a spatial hydrological model that allows for assessing hydrological impacts due to changes in climate and socio economic drivers. STREAM is set up according to a policy analysis framework and ensures a structured approach for an entire river basin including the coastal zone. STREAM uses hydrological input data, scenarios, and adaptive strategies and provides output data on water availability and (salt water) quality. It integrates within this frame several types of interactions between effects of river management on the coastal zone, land and water uses such as short term deforestation and dam building, and long term impacts of climate change.

STREAM is a spatial model and uses data from digital GIS maps and satellite observations, in particular land-use related data. The basis of the instrument is a grid or raster-based water balance approach. Water use and withdrawals can be simulated such as the spatial distribution of agriculture and urbanization use and the storage of water in the open flood plain and groundwater aquifers.

The main advantage of STREAM is that it primarily uses public domain data from the internet providing a very first order of estimates on impacts. This makes the STREAM instrument very flexible for future extensions and adjustments. The next stage of development, calibration and validation, is usually performed in close cooperation with local stakeholders, using local time series of in and output data increasing the level of reliability.

Appropriate Use

The STREAM can be applied to entire river basins with different sizes for which it considers the full year hydrological cycle. For example, in large river basins, a grid size of 1 x 1 km2 can be applied while in the lower regions a 100 x 100 m2 grid size is applicable.

Time steps can vary from 1 month as an overall step to either decades or 5-day steps for specific periods of interest during the hydrological cycle, such as the flood season.

Scope STREAM has been primarily applied to studies to assess impacts of climate change, climate variability and land use changes (including dams and reservoirs) to water resources in river basins. For these issues, STREAM enables calculation of the impacts of changes in temperature and precipitation on the regional hydrology. Based on these impacts, different management strategies can be assessed by providing a quantitative assessment of water availability under various scenarios.
Key Output Key output is spatial hydrological information on water availability in the form of (monthly) soil-humidity and river discharges. The latter outputs can be in either a hydrograph or a spatial GIS based map.
Key Input The required input data is: temperature, precipitation, soil types, elevation. And for calibration and validation: runoff data.
Ease of Use The model is easy to use for non technical users. However, it is best used within a team of both hydrological experts and policy makers. Some GIS knowledge is required.
Training Required Some GIS knowledge and training is required to prepare the input data of the model. Also some basic hydrological knowledge is an advantage but is not necessary.
Training Offered A setup manual is delivered with the model. It is recommended, however, that users follow a short introductory course by the distributor and RIKZ.
Computer Requirements The minimum hardware requirement is a PIII – 500MhZ computer with 256 MB internal memory.
Documentation To obtain STREAM software and user manual please register at

STREAM has been applied to the following river basins: Rhine (Europe), Meuse (Europe), Amu Darya (Central Asia), Syr Darya (Central Asia), Nile (Africa), Niger (Africa), Incomati (Africa), Zambezi (Africa), Ganges/Brahmaputra (Asia), Yangtze (China), Krishna (India), Perfume (Vietnam).

Contacts for Framework, Documentation, Technical Assistance

Dr. Robbert Misdorp, Coastal Zone Management Centre/National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management (RIKZ),Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Kortenaerkade 1, PO BOX 20907, 2500EX The Hague. The Netherlands; Tel: +31.70.3114311, Fax: +31.70.3114300, e-mail:; website:

Dr. Jeroen Aerts, Senior Researcher Water Resources, Climate Change, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam De Boelelaan 1087, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Tel. +31.20.4449528 / 9555; Fax. +31.20.4449553, e-mail:; website:

Cost A STREAM-DEMO tool can be acquired for free. After registering, a free copy of the Model can be obtained through the IVM – STREAM Website. The development of a first order Internet-based STREAM for a new river basin can be accomplished within a month.

ee for list of STREM references.