Articles | Volume 17, issue 9
Research article
25 Sep 2013
Research article |  | 25 Sep 2013

Using the nonlinear aquifer storage–discharge relationship to simulate the base flow of glacier- and snowmelt-dominated basins in northwest China

R. Gan and Y. Luo

Abstract. Base flow is an important component in hydrological modeling. This process is usually modeled by using the linear aquifer storage–discharge relation approach, although the outflow from groundwater aquifers is nonlinear. To identify the accuracy of base flow estimates in rivers dominated by snowmelt and/or glacier melt in arid and cold northwestern China, a nonlinear storage–discharge relationship for use in SWAT (Soil Water Assessment Tool) modeling was developed and applied to the Manas River basin in the Tian Shan Mountains. Linear reservoir models and a digital filter program were used for comparisons. Meanwhile, numerical analysis of recession curves from 78 river gauge stations revealed variation in the parameters of the nonlinear relationship. It was found that the nonlinear reservoir model can improve the streamflow simulation, especially for low-flow period. The higher Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency, logarithmic efficiency, and volumetric efficiency, and lower percent bias were obtained when compared to the one-linear reservoir approach. The parameter b of the aquifer storage–discharge function varied mostly between 0.0 and 0.1, which is much smaller than the suggested value of 0.5. The coefficient a of the function is related to catchment properties, primarily the basin and glacier areas.