Articles | Volume 18, issue 9
Research article
29 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 29 Sep 2014

Robust global sensitivity analysis of a river management model to assess nonlinear and interaction effects

L. J. M. Peeters, G. M. Podger, T. Smith, T. Pickett, R. H. Bark, and S. M. Cuddy

Abstract. The simulation of routing and distribution of water through a regulated river system with a river management model will quickly result in complex and nonlinear model behaviour. A robust sensitivity analysis increases the transparency of the model and provides both the modeller and the system manager with a better understanding and insight on how the model simulates reality and management operations.

In this study, a robust, density-based sensitivity analysis, developed by Plischke et al. (2013), is applied to an eWater Source river management model. This sensitivity analysis methodology is extended to not only account for main effects but also for interaction effects. The combination of sensitivity indices and scatter plots enables the identification of major linear effects as well as subtle minor and nonlinear effects.

The case study is an idealized river management model representing typical conditions of the southern Murray–Darling Basin in Australia for which the sensitivity of a variety of model outcomes to variations in the driving forces, inflow to the system, rainfall and potential evapotranspiration, is examined. The model outcomes are most sensitive to the inflow to the system, but the sensitivity analysis identified minor effects of potential evapotranspiration and nonlinear interaction effects between inflow and potential evapotranspiration.