WATER-DRIVEN EROSION PREDICTION TECHNOLOGY FOR A MORE COMPLICATED REALITY
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Hydrological modeling has been a valuable tool to understand the processes governing water distribution, quantity, and quality of the planet Earth. Through models, one has been able to grasp processes such as runoff, soil moisture, soil erosion, subsurface drainage, plant growth, evapotranspiration, and effects of land use changes on hydrology at field and watershed scales. The number and diversity of water-related challenges are vast and expected to increase. As a result, current models need to be under continuous modifications to extend their application to more complex processes. Several models have been extensively developed in recent years. These models include the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model, MIKE-SHE, and the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model. The latter, although it is a well-validated model at field scales, the WEPP watershed model has been limited to small catchments, and almost no research has been introduced regarding water quality issues (only one study).
In this research, three objectives were proposed to improve the WEPP model in three areas where either the model has not been applied, or modifications can be performed to improve algorithms of the processes within the model (e.g. erosion, runoff, drainage). The enhancements impact the WEPP model by improving the current stochastic weather generation, extending its applicability to subsurface drainage estimation, and formulating a new routing model that allows future incorporation of transport of reactive solutes.
The first contribution was development of a stochastic storm generator based on 5-min time resolution and correlated non-normal Monte Carlo-based numerical simulation. The model considered the correlated and non-normal rainstorm characteristics such as time between storms, duration, and amount of precipitation, as well as the storm intensity structure. The model was tested using precipitation data from a randomly selected 5-min weather station in North Carolina. Results showed that the proposed storm generator captured the essential statistical features of rainstorms and their intensity patterns, preserving the first four moments of monthly storm events, good annual extreme event correspondence, and the correlation structure within each storm. Since the proposed model depends on statistical properties at a site, this may allow the use of synthetic storms in ungauged locations provided relevant information from a regional analysis is available.
A second development included the testing, improvement, and validation of the WEPP model to simulate subsurface flow discharges. The proposed model included the modification of the current subsurface drainage algorithm (Hooghoudt-based expression) and the WEPP model percolation routine. The modified WEPP model was tested and validated on an extensive dataset collected at four experimental sites managed by USDA-ARS within the Lake Erie Watershed. Predicted subsurface discharges show Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE) values ranging from 0.50 to 0.70, and percent bias ranging from -30% to +15% at daily and monthly resolutions. Evidence suggests the WEPP model can be used to produce reliable estimates of subsurface flow with minimum calibration.
The last objective presented the theoretical framework for a new hillslope and channel-routing model for the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model. The routing model (WEPP-CMT) is based on catchment geomorphology and mass transport theory for flow and transport of reactive solutes. The WEPP-CMT uses the unique functionality of WEPP to simulate hillslope responses under diverse land use and management conditions and a Lagrangian description of the carrier hydrologic runoff at hillslope and channel domains. An example of the model functionality was tested in a sub-catchment of the Upper Cedar River Watershed in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Results showed that the proposed model provides an acceptable representation of flow at the outlet of the study catchment. Model efficiencies and percent bias for the calibration period and the validation period were NSE = 0.55 and 0.65, and PBIAS = -2.8% and 2.1%, respectively. The WEPP-CMT provides a suitable foundation for the transport of reactive solutes (e.g. nitrates) at basin scales.