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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 16, issue 1
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 121–132, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-16-121-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 121–132, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-16-121-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 12 Jan 2012

Research article | 12 Jan 2012

Analysis of parameter uncertainty in hydrological and sediment modeling using GLUE method: a case study of SWAT model applied to Three Gorges Reservoir Region, China

Z. Y. Shen1, L. Chen1, and T. Chen1,2 Z. Y. Shen et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Water Environment Simulation, School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 100875, China
  • 2Zhonglu Environmental and Engineering Assessment Center of Shandong Province, Zhonglu, 250000, China

Abstract. The calibration of hydrologic models is a worldwide challenge due to the uncertainty involved in the large number of parameters. The difficulty even increases in a region with high seasonal variation of precipitation, where the results exhibit high heteroscedasticity and autocorrelation. In this study, the Generalized Likelihood Uncertainty Estimation (GLUE) method was combined with the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to quantify the parameter uncertainty of the stream flow and sediment simulation in the Daning River Watershed of the Three Gorges Reservoir Region (TGRA), China. Based on this study, only a few parameters affected the final simulation output significantly. The results showed that sediment simulation presented greater uncertainty than stream flow, and uncertainty was even greater in high precipitation conditions (from May to September) than during the dry season. The main uncertainty sources of stream flow came from the catchment process while a channel process impacts the sediment simulation greatly. It should be noted that identifiable parameters such as CANMX, ALPHA_BNK, SOL_K could be obtained with an optimal parameter range using calibration method. However, equifinality was also observed in hydrologic modeling in TGRA. This study demonstrated that care must be taken when calibrating the SWAT model with non-identifiable parameters because these may lead to equifinality of the parameter values. It was anticipated this study would provide useful information for hydrology modeling related to policy development in the Three Gorges Reservoir Region (TGRA) and other similar areas.

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