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Modeling Streamflow in a Snow-Dominated Forest Watershed Using the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) Model

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 60(4): 1171-1187. (doi: 10.13031/trans.12035) @2017
Authors:   Anurag Srivastava, Joan Q. Wu, William J. Elliot, Erin S. Brooks, Dennis C. Flanagan
Keywords:   Baseflow, Forest watershed, Hydrological modeling, Streamflow, U.S. Pacific Northwest, WEPP.

Abstract. The Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model was originally developed for hillslope and small watershed applications. Recent improvements to WEPP have led to enhanced computations for deep percolation, subsurface lateral flow, and frozen soil. In addition, the incorporation of channel routing has made the WEPP model well suited for large watersheds with perennial flows. However, WEPP is still limited in modeling forested watersheds where groundwater baseflow is substantial. The objectives of this study were to (1) incorporate nonlinear algorithms into WEPP (v2012.8) for estimating groundwater baseflow, (2) auto-calibrate the current and modified WEPP model using a model-independent parameter estimation tool, and (3) evaluate and compare the performance of the current version of WEPP without baseflow (WEPP-Cur) and the modified WEPP model with baseflow (WEPP-Mod) in simulating the hydrology of a snow-dominated watershed in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A subwatershed of the Upper Cedar River Watershed in western Washington State was chosen for WEPP application and assessment. Simulations were conducted for two periods: 1997-2003 to calibrate the model and 2004-2011 to assess the model performance. The WEPP-Cur simulations resulted in Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) and deviation of runoff volume (Dv) values of 0.55 and 24%, respectively, for the calibration period, and 0.60 and 21%, respectively, for the assessment period. The WEPP-Mod simulated streamflow showed improved agreement with observed streamflow, with NSE and Dv values of 0.76 and 6%, respectively, for the calibration period, and 0.74 and 2%, respectively, for the assessment period. The WEPP-Mod model reproduced hydrograph recessions during the low-flow periods and the general trend of the hydrographs, demonstrating its applicability to a watershed where groundwater baseflow was significant. The incorporation of a baseflow component into WEPP will help forest managers to assess the alterations in hydrological processes and water yield for their forest management practices.

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