Multi-Step Calibration Approach for SWAT Model Using Soil Moisture and Crop Yields in a Small Agricultural Catchment
Authors: , , , and
The quantitative prediction of hydrological components through hydrological models could serve as a basis for developing better land and water management policies. This study provides a comprehensive step by step modelling approach for a small agricultural watershed using the SWAT model. The watershed is situated in Petzenkirchen in the western part of Lower Austria and has total area of 66 hectares. At present, 87% of the catchment area is arable land, 5% is used as pasture, 6% is forested and 2% is paved. The calibration approach involves a sequential calibration of the model starting from surface runoff, and groundwater flow, followed by crop yields and then soil moisture, and finally total streamflow and sediment yields. Calibration and validation are carried out using the r-package SWATplusR. The impact of each calibration step on sediment yields and total streamflow is evaluated. The results of this approach are compared with those of the conventional model calibration approach, where all the parameters governing various hydrological processes are calibrated simultaneously. Results showed that the model was capable of successfully predicting surface runoff, groundwater flow, soil profile water content, total streamflow and sediment yields with Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) of greater than 0.75. Crop yields were also well simulated with a percent bias (PBIAS) ranging from −17% to 14%. Surface runoff calibration had the highest impact on streamflow output, improving NSE from 0.39 to 0.77. The step-wise calibration approach performed better for streamflow prediction than the simultaneous calibration approach. The results of this study show that the step-wise calibration approach is more accurate, and provides a better representation of different hydrological components and processes than the simultaneous calibration approach.