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Modification of the SWAT model to simulate regional groundwater flow using a multicell aquifer

Nguyen, Van Tam, Dietrich, Jörg
Hydrological processes 2018 v.32 no.7 pp. 939-953
Soil and Water Assessment Tool model, aquifers, base flow, basins, drainage water, groundwater, groundwater flow, groundwater recharge, simulation models, streams, water table, wells, Germany
The soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) has been widely used and thoroughly tested in many places in the world. The application of the SWAT model has pointed out that 2 of the major weaknesses of SWAT are related to the nonspatial reference of the hydrologic response unit concept and to the simplified groundwater concept, which contribute to its low performance in baseflow simulation and its inability to simulate regional groundwater flow. This study modified the groundwater module of SWAT to overcome the above limitations. The modified groundwater module has 2 aquifers. The local aquifer, which is the shallow aquifer in the original SWAT, represents a local groundwater flow system. The regional aquifer, which replaces the deep aquifer of the original SWAT, represents intermediate and regional groundwater flow systems. Groundwater recharge is partitioned into local and regional aquifer recharges. The regional aquifer is represented by a multicell aquifer (MCA) model. The regional aquifer is discretized into cells using the Thiessen polygon method, where centres of the cells are locations of groundwater observation wells. Groundwater flow between cells is modelled using Darcy's law. Return flow from cell to stream is conceptualized using a non‐linear storage–discharge relationship. The SWAT model with the modified aquifer module, the so‐called SWAT‐MCA, was tested in 2 basins (Wipperau and Neetze) with porous aquifers in a lowland area in Lower Saxony, Germany. Results from the Wipperau basin show that the SWAT‐MCA model is able (a) to simulate baseflow in a lowland area (where baseflow is a dominant source of streamflow) better than the original model and (b) to simulate regional groundwater flow, shown by the simulated groundwater levels in cells, quite well.