On the Calibration of Spatially Distributed Hydrologic Models for Poorly Gauged Basins: Exploiting Information from Streamflow Signatures and Remote Sensing-Based Evapotranspiration Data

Tadesse Alemayehu, Hoshin V. Gupta, Ann van Griensven, Willy Bauwens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Spatially distributed hydrologic models are useful for understanding the water balance dynamics of catchments under changing conditions, thereby providing important information for water resource management and decision making. However, in poorly gauged basins, the absence of reliable and overlapping in situ hydro-meteorological data makes the calibration and evaluation of such models quite challenging. Here, we explored the potential of using streamflow signatures extracted from historical (not current) streamflow data, along with current remote sensing-based evapotranspiration data, to constrain the parameters of a spatially distributed Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model of the Mara River Basin (Kenya/Tanzania) that is forced by satellite-based rainfall. The result is a reduced bias of the simulated estimates of streamflow and evapotranspiration. In addition, the simulated water balance dynamics better reflect underlying governing factors such as soil type, land cover and climate at both annual and seasonal time scales, indicating the structural and behavioral consistency of the calibrated model. This study demonstrates that the judicious use of available information can help to facilitate meaningful calibration and evaluation of hydrologic models to support decision making in poorly gauged river basins around the world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1252
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

Keywords

  • SWAT
  • evapotranspiration
  • flow duration curve
  • hydrologic modeling
  • multi-objective and multi-variable calibration
  • poorly gauged basin
  • remote sensing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology

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