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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-334
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-334
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 10 Jul 2019

Research article | 10 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).

On the representation of water reservoir storage and operations in large-scale hydrological models: implications on model parameterization and climate change impact assessments

Thanh Duc Dang, AFM Kamal Chowdhury, and Stefano Galelli Thanh Duc Dang et al.
  • Pillar of Engineering Systems and Design, Singapore University of Technology and Design, Singapore 487372

Abstract. During the past decades, the increased impact of anthropogenic interventions on river basins has prompted hydrologists to develop various approaches for representing human-water interactions in large-scale hydrological and land surface models. The simulation of water reservoir storage and operations has received particular attention, owing to the ubiquitous presence of dams. Yet, little is known about (1) the effect of the representation of water reservoirs on the parameterization of hydrological models, and, therefore, (2) the risks associated to potential flaws in the calibration process. To fill in this gap, we contribute a computational framework based on the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model and a Multi-Objective Evolutionary Algorithm, which we use to calibrate VIC's parameters. An important feature of our framework is a novel variant of VIC's routing module that allows us to simulate the storage dynamics of water reservoirs. Using the upper Mekong river basin as a case study, we calibrate two instances of VIC – with and without reservoirs. We show that both model instances have the same accuracy in reproducing daily discharges (over the period 1996–2005); a result attained by the model without reservoirs by adopting a parameterization that compensates for the absence of these infrastructures. The first implication of this flawed parameter estimation stands in a poor representation of key hydrological processes, such as surface runoff, infiltration, and baseflow. To further demonstrate the risks associated to the use of such model, we carry out a climate change impact assessment (for the period 2050–2060), for which we use precipitation and temperature data retrieved from five Global Circulation Models (GCMs) and two Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs 4.5 and 8.5). Results show that the two model instances (with and without reservoirs) provide different projections of the minimum, maximum, and average monthly discharges. These results are consistent across both RCPs. Overall, our study reinforces the message about the correct representation of human-water interactions in large-scale hydrological models.

Thanh Duc Dang et al.
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Thanh Duc Dang et al.
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Latest update: 19 Jul 2019
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Short summary
A common problem in catchment hydrology stands in the representation of dams in numerical models. Here, we contribute to the existing literature by showing that the representation of water reservoirs can largely impact the model parameters; a result attained by comparing the parameters of a model for the Upper Mekong basin built with/without reservoirs. We show that a flawed parameter estimation affects the representation of key physical processes and the downstream applications of the model.
A common problem in catchment hydrology stands in the representation of dams in numerical...
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