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Simulating saturation‐excess surface run‐off in a semi‐distributed hydrological model

Hughes, Denis Arthur, Mazibuko, Sbongiseni
Hydrological processes 2018 v.32 no.17 pp. 2685-2694
hydrologic models, riparian areas, runoff, subwatersheds, topography, uncertainty, Sub-Saharan Africa
The level of complexity, and the number of parameters, to include in a hydrological model is a relatively contentious issue in hydrological modelling. However, it can be argued that explicitly representing important run‐off generation processes can improve the practical value of a model's outputs. This paper explores the benefits of including a new function into an existing semi‐distributed hydrological model (the Pitman model) that is widely used in the sub‐Saharan Africa region. The new function was designed to represent saturation‐excess surface run‐off processes at subcatchment scales and was motivated by the evidence of dambo (low topography riparian areas) type features in many sub‐Saharan river basins. The results for uncertainty versions of the model, with and without the new function, were compared for 25 catchments, which were divided up into those where evidence of dambos exists and those where there is no such evidence. The results suggest that the new function certainly improves the model results for the catchments where dambos exist, but not in situations where saturation‐excess surface run‐off is not expected to occur. The overall conclusion is therefore that the addition of the new function is justified.