Articles | Volume 3, issue 2
30 Jun 1999
30 Jun 1999

Imposing constraints on parameter values of a conceptual hydrological model using baseflow response

S. M. Dunn

Abstract. Calibration of conceptual hydrological models is frequently limited by a lack of data about the area that is being studied. The result is that a broad range of parameter values can be identified that will give an equally good calibration to the available observations, usually of stream flow. The use of total stream flow can bias analyses towards interpretation of rapid runoff, whereas water quality issues are more frequently associated with low flow condition. This paper demonstrates how model distinctions between surface an sub-surface runoff can be used to define a likelihood measure based on the sub-surface (or baseflow) response. This helps to provide more information about the model behaviour, constrain the acceptable parameter sets and reduce uncertainty in streamflow prediction. A conceptual model, DIY, is applied to two contrasting catchments in Scotland, the Ythan and the Carron Valley. Parameter ranges and envelopes of prediction are identified using criteria based on total flow efficiency, baseflow efficiency and combined efficiencies. The individual parameter ranges derived using the combined efficiency measures still cover relatively wide bands, but are better constrained for the Carron than the Ythan. This reflects the fact that hydrological behaviour in the Carron is dominated by a much flashier surface response than in the Ythan. Hence, the total flow efficiency is more strongly controlled by surface runoff in the Carron and there is a greater contrast with the baseflow efficiency. Comparisons of the predictions using different efficiency measures for the Ythan also suggest that there is a danger of confusing parameter uncertainties with data and model error, if inadequate likelihood measures are defined.