Assessing the impact of areal precipitation input on streamflow simulations using the SWAT model uri icon


  • Reduction of input uncertainty is a challenge in hydrological modeling. The widely used model Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) uses the data of a precipitation gauge nearest to the centroid of each subcatchment as an input for that subcatchment. This may not represent overall catchment precipitation conditions well. This paper suggests an alternative - using areal precipitation obtained through interpolation. The effectiveness of this alternative is evaluated by comparing its simulations with those based on the standard SWAT precipitation input procedure. The model is applied to mountainous semiarid catchments in the Karkheh River basin, Iran. The model performance is evaluated at daily, monthly, and annual scales by using a number of performance indicators at 15 streamflow gauging stations each draining an area in the range of 590-42,620 km2. The comparison suggests that the use of areal precipitation improves model performance particularly in small subcatchments in the range of 600-1,600 km2. The modified areal precipitation input results in increased reliability of simulated streamflows in the areas of low rain gauge density. Both precipitation input methods result in reasonably good simulations for larger catchments (over 5,000 km2). The use of areal precipitation input improves the accuracy of simulated streamflows with spatial resolution and density of rain gauges having significant impact on results

publication date

  • 2010