Articles | Volume 11, issue 2
22 Feb 2007
22 Feb 2007

Identifying runoff processes on the plot and catchment scale

P. Schmocker-Fackel, F. Naef, and S. Scherrer

Abstract. Rainfall-runoff models that adequately represent the real hydrological processes and that do not have to be calibrated, are needed in hydrology. Such a model would require information about the runoff processes occurring in a catchment and their spatial distribution. Therefore, the aim of this article is (1) to develop a methodology that allows the delineation of dominant runoff processes (DRP) in the field and with a GIS, and (2) to illustrate how such a map can be used in rainfall-runoff modelling.

Soil properties were assessed of 44 soil profiles in two Swiss catchments. On some profiles, sprinkling experiments were performed and soil-water levels measured. With these data, the dominant runoff processes (DRP) were determined using the Scherrer and Naef (2003) process decision scheme. At the same time, a simplified method was developed to make it possible to determine the DRP only on the basis of maps of the soil, topography and geology. In 67% of the soil profiles, the two methods indicated the same processes; in 24% with minor deviations.

By transforming the simplified method into a set of rules that could be introduced into a GIS, the distributions of the different DRPs in two catchments could be delineated automatically so that maps of the dominant runoff processes could be produced. These maps agreed well with manually derived maps and field observations.

Flood-runoff volumes could be quite accurately predicted on the basis of the rainfall measured and information on the water retention capacity contained in the DRP map. This illustrates the potential of the DRP maps for defining the infiltration parameters used in rainfall-runoff models.