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A hydropedological approach to simulate streamflow and soil water contents with SWAT+

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  • Johan van Tol, University of The Free State
  • ,
  • Katrin Bieger
  • Jeffrey G. Arnold, United States Department of Agriculture

Reflecting internal catchment hydrological processes in hydrological models is important for accurate predictions of the impact of climate and land-use change on water resources. Characterizing these processes is however difficult and expensive due to their dynamic nature and spatio-temporal variability. Hydropedology is a relatively new discipline focusing on the synergistic integration of hydrology, soil physics and pedology. Hydropedological interpretations of soils and soil distribution can be used to characterize key hydrological processes, especially in areas with no or limited hydrometric measurements. Here we applied a hydropedological approach to reflect flowpaths through detailed routing in SWAT+ for a 157 ha catchment (Weatherley) in South Africa. We compared the hydropedological approach and a standard (no routing) approach against measured streamflow (two weirs) and soil water contents (13 locations). The catchment was treated as ‘ungauged’ and the model was not calibrated against hydrometric measurements in order to determine the direct contribution of hydropedology on modelling efficiency. Streamflow was predicted well without calibration (NSE > 0.8; R2 > 0.82) for both approaches at both weirs. The standard approach yielded slightly better streamflow predictions. The hydropedological approach resulted in considerable improvements in the simulation of soil water contents (R2 increased from 0.40 to 0.49 and PBIAS decreased from 40% to 20%). The routing capacity of SWAT+ as employed in the hydropedological approach reduced the underestimation of wetland water regimes drastically and resulted in a more accurate representation of the dominant hydrological processes in this catchment. We concluded that hydropedology can be a valuable source of ‘soft data’ to reflect internal catchment structure and processes and, potentially, for realistic calibrations in other studies, especially those conducted in areas with limited hydrometric measurements.

TidsskriftHydrological Processes
Antal sider14
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2021

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