Main content area

Assessment of freshwater discharge into a coastal bay through multi-basin ensemble hydrological modelling

de Lavenne, A., Cudennec, C.
The Science of the total environment 2019 v.669 pp. 812-820
algal blooms, basins, freshwater, hydrograph, hydrologic models, pollution, prediction, rain, time series analysis, uncertainty, watersheds, France
Coastal basins of the Brittany peninsula (France) are hydrological hot spots. A high level of nutrient pollution affects many of these basins and causes algal blooms in several coastal bays; nine have been a specific focus of the European Commission since 2007. The flux of each contributing basin flowing into these bays must be examined to assess the conditions and explore mitigation options. However, this task encounters a large lack of data since most of the basins are ungauged. In this context, this study developed a method which facilitates transposition of hydrographs from gauged basins to ungauged neighbouring basins of interest. Inverting a simple geomorphology-based transfer function of the gauged basin which describes travel time through channels enables the net rainfall time-series to be estimated from the discharge time-series of donor basins. To estimate the net rainfall of a given ungauged catchment, several net rainfall time series of gauged catchments are averaged. The resulting net rainfall is then transposed onto the ungauged target basin and convoluted by its own transfer function to estimate the hydrograph. This allows the transposition of as many hydrographs as there are different donor basins. This ensemble prediction enables the proportion of prediction uncertainty that is due to the heterogeneity in hydrological behaviour to be estimated. Moreover, the time-series of the donor basins are combined to estimate the ungauged net rainfall time-series. This provides a discharge prediction which values all available measurements. The method was applied to the highly controversial Saint Brieuc Bay, where it was possible to quantify the contribution of each coastal basin, even those influenced by dams, and ultimately the entire volume of fresh water entering the bay at an hourly time step. This work opens perspectives to additionally refine estimation of the associated nutrient fluxes.