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Analysis of runoff-storage relationships to evaluate the runoff-buffering potential of a sloping permeable domain

Tani, Makoto
Journal of hydrology 2008 v.360 no.1-4 pp. 132-146
rain, runoff, watershed hydrology, watersheds, slope, saturated flow, unsaturated flow, hydrologic models, macropores, macropore flow, Richards' equation, soil water storage, hydraulic conductivity
The runoff-storage relationship for a runoff system in a steady-state is analyzed as an indicator of the buffering potential of rainfall-runoff responses. In this relationship, a large storage increase in response to a given runoff increase indicates high buffering potential in the water balance equation. The evaluation method is applied to a sloping permeable domain. A two-dimensional form of the Richards equation is used to calculate runoff and storage. Macropore existence is represented by an enlargement effect of hydraulic conductivity near saturation. The runoff-storage relationship is controlled by the distribution of hydraulic quantities. The distribution of a pressure-head value is approximately classified into the following three zones: the I zone with vertical unsaturated flow, the U zone with unsaturated downslope flow, and the S zone with saturated downslope flow. The runoff-buffering potential is systematically evaluated by dependencies of the runoff-storage relationship on the classification of the pressure-head distribution. The potential is generally high for soil with a high permeability, but rather small in the range of low runoff rates where the S zone is not created. The macropore effect causes the range of high buffering potential to shift to high runoff rates through enlargement of the I zone. As a result, a moderate magnitude of the macropore effect gives the maximum increase in storage in response to a given increase in runoff.