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Using a Hierarchical Approach to Calibrate SWAT and Predict the Semi-Arid Hydrologic Regime of Northeastern Brazil

Santos, Carlos A. S., Almeida, Carina, Ramos, Tiago B., Rocha, Felizardo A., Oliveira, Rodrigo, Neves, Ramiro
Water 2018 v.10 no.9
Soil and Water Assessment Tool model, decision making, model validation, planning, prediction, probability, regression analysis, rivers, stream flow, t-test, water shortages, watersheds, Brazil
The Paragua&ccedil;u watershed in northeastern Brazil faces increasing water scarcity, with water resources unable to meet the increasing demand. Accurate assessment of water availability is thus essential for efficient planning and management of local resources. In this work, the potential of the SWAT model for predicting daily and monthly variability of the hydrologic regime of the Paragua&ccedil;u River was assessed. Model calibration/validation followed: (i) A hierarchical framework; (ii) the assessment of maximum, average and minimum streamflow based on paired t-test and linear regression analysis; and (iii) the definition of permanence curves for streamflow with a probability of occurrence of 90% (Q90) and 95% (Q95). The goodness-of-fit indicators revealed a &ldquo;satisfactory&rdquo; model performance (model efficiency ranged from 0.42 to 0.83) when predicting streamflow in monitored sub-basins using a unique set of parameters for wet and dry conditions. The flow duration curves also showed that the model underestimated higher flows resulting from extreme events but performed well for flows with exceedance probabilities of <90%. The regression analysis and paired t-test demonstrated that the SWAT model can be used for estimating maximum, average and minimum monthly streamflow in a region where information is insufficient to support water authorities in the decision-making process. The SWAT model can thus be considered adequate for simulating monthly streamflow in the Paragua&ccedil;u watershed.