SWAT Literature Database for Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Title:The role of interior watershed processes in improving parameter estimation and performance of watershed models 
Authors:Yen, H., R.T. Bailey, M. Arabi, M. Ahmadi, M.J. White and J.G. Arnold 
Journal:Journal of Environmental Quality 
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URL (non-DOI journals): 
Broad Application Category:hydrologic & pollutant 
Primary Application Category:nutrient cycling and transport 
Secondary Application Category:calibration, sensitivity, and/or uncertainty analysis 
Watershed Description:248 km^2 Eagle Creek, a tributary of the Upper White River, located in central Indiana, U.S. 
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Abstract:Watershed models typically are evaluated solely through comparison of in-stream water and nutrient fluxes with measured data using established performance criteria, whereas processes and responses within the interior of the watershed that govern these global fluxes often are neglected. Due to the large number of parameters at the disposal of these models, circumstances may arise in which excellent global results are achieved using inaccurate magnitudes of these “intra-watershed” responses. When used for scenario analysis, a given model hence may inaccurately predict the global, in-stream effect of implementing land-use practices at the interior of the watershed. In this study, data regarding internal watershed behavior are used to constrain parameter estimation to maintain realistic intra-watershed responses while also matching available in-stream monitoring data. The methodology is demonstrated for the Eagle Creek Watershed in central Indiana. Streamflow and nitrate (NO3) loading are used as global in-stream comparisons, with two process responses, the annual mass of denitrification and the ratio of NO3 losses from subsurface and surface flow, used to constrain parameter estimation. Results show that imposing these constraints not only yields realistic internal watershed behavior but also provides good in-stream comparisons. Results further demonstrate that in the absence of incorporating intra-watershed constraints, evaluation of nutrient abatement strategies could be misleading, even though typical performance criteria are satisfied. Incorporating intra-watershed responses yields a watershed model that more accurately represents the observed behavior of the system and hence a tool that can be used with confidence in scenario evaluation.