Calibration and Validation of SWAT for the Upper Maquoketa River Watershed

Pipat Reungsang, Ramesh Kanwar, Manoj Jha, Philip W. Gassman, Khalil Ahmad, Ali Saleh
June 2005  [05-WP 396]

A validation study has been performed using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model with data collected for the Upper Maquoketa River Watershed (UMRW), which drains over 16,000 ha in northeast Iowa. This validation assessment builds on a previous study with nested modeling for the UMRW that required both the Agricultural Policy EXtender (APEX) model and SWAT. In the nested modeling approach, edge-of-field flows and pollutant load estimates were generated for manure application fields with APEX and were then subsequently routed to the watershed outlet in SWAT, along with flows and pollutant loadings estimated for the rest of the watershed routed to the watershed outlet. In the current study, the entire UMRW cropland area was simulated in SWAT, which required translating the APEX subareas into SWAT hydrologic response units (HRUs). Calibration and validation of the SWAT output was performed by comparing predicted flow and NO3-N loadings with corresponding in-stream measurements at the watershed outlet from 1999 to 2001. Annual stream flows measured at the watershed outlet were greatly under-predicted when precipitation data collected within the watershed during the 1999-2001 period were used to drive SWAT. Selection of alternative climate data resulted in greatly improved average annual stream predictions, and also relatively strong r2 values of 0.73 and 0.72 for the predicted average monthly flows and NO3-N loads, respectively. The impact of alternative precipitation data shows that as average annual precipitation increases 19%, the relative change in average annual streamflow is about 55%. In summary, the results of this study show that SWAT can replicate measured trends for this watershed and that climate inputs are very important for validating SWAT and other water quality models.

Keywords: calibration, modeling, nitrate, SWAT, validation, water quality.

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