• Basin Scale and Runoff Model Complexity

      Goodrich, David Charles; Department of Hydrology & Water Resources, The University of Arizona; Southwest Watershed Research Center (Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), 1990-06)
      Distributed Rainfall-Runoff models are gaining widespread acceptance; yet, a fundamental issue that must be addressed by all users of these models is definition of an acceptable level of watershed discretization (geometric model complexity). The level of geometric model complexity is a function of basin and climatic scales as well as the availability of input and verification data. Equilibrium discharge storage is employed to develop a quantitative methodology to define a level of geometric model complexity commensurate with a specified level of model performance. Equilibrium storage ratios are used to define the transition from overland to channel -dominated flow response. The methodology is tested on four subcatchments in the USDA -ARS Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed in Southeastern Arizona. The catchments cover a range of basins scales of over three orders of magnitude. This enabled a unique assessment of watershed response behavior as a function of basin scale. High quality, distributed, rainfall -runoff data was used to verify the model (KINEROSR). Excellent calibration and verification results provided confidence in subsequent model interpretations regarding watershed response behavior. An average elementary channel support area of roughly 15% of the total basin area is shown to provide a watershed discretization level that maintains model performance for basins ranging in size from 1.5 to 631 hectares. Detailed examination of infiltration, including the role and impacts of incorporating small scale infiltration variability in a distribution sense, into KINEROSR, over a range of soils and climatic scales was also addressed. The impacts of infiltration and channel losses on runoff response increase with increasing watershed scale as the relative influence of storms is diminished in a semiarid environment such as Walnut Gulch. In this semiarid environment, characterized by ephemeral streams, watershed runoff response does not become more linear with increasing watershed scale but appears to become more nonlinear.