Articles | Volume 10, issue 6
10 Nov 2006
10 Nov 2006

Physically-based modelling of hydrological processes in a tropical headwater catchment (West Africa) – process representation and multi-criteria validation

S. Giertz, B. Diekkrüger, and G. Steup

Abstract. The aim of the study was to test the applicability of a physically-based model to simulate the hydrological processes in a headwater catchment in Benin. Field investigations in the catchment have shown that lateral processes such as surface runoff and interflow are most important. Therefore, the 1-D SVAT-model SIMULAT was modified to a semi-distributed hillslope version (SIMULAT-H). Based on a good database, the model was evaluated in a multi-criteria validation using discharge, discharge components and soil moisture data. For the validation of discharge, good results were achieved for dry and wet years. The main differences were observable in the beginning of the rainy season. A comparison of the discharge components determined by hydro-chemical measurements with the simulation revealed that the model simulated the ratio of groundwater fluxes and fast runoff components correctly. For the validation of the discharge components of single events, larger differences were observable, which was partly caused by uncertainties in the precipitation data. The representation of the soil moisture dynamics by the model was good for the top soil layer. For deeper soil horizons, which are characterized by higher gravel content, the differences between simulated and measured soil moisture were larger.

A good agreement of simulation results and field investigations was achieved for the runoff generation processes. Interflow is the predominant process on the upper and the middle slopes, while at the bottom of the hillslope groundwater recharge and – during the rainy season – saturated overland flow are important processes.