Evaluation of Scale Issues in SWAT
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In Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), oftentimes, Critical Source Area (CSA), the minimum upstream drainage area that is required to initiate a stream, is used to subdivide a watershed. In the current literature, CSA has been used as a trial and error process to define the subwatershed levels. On the other hand, the ongoing collaboration of the United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water and the United States Geological Survey has promoted a national level predefined catchments and flowlines called National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) Plus to ease watershed modeling in the United States. The introduction of NHDPlus can eliminate the uncertain nature in defining the number of subwatersheds required to model the hydrologic system. This study demonstrates an integrated modeling environment with SWAT and NHDPlus spatial datasets. A spatial tool that was developed in a Geographical Information System (GIS) environment to by-pass the default watershed delineation in ArcSWAT, the GIS interface to SWAT, with the introduction of NHDPlus catchments and flowlines, was used in this study. This study investigates the effect of the spatial size (catchment area) of the NHDPlus and the input data resolution (cell/pixel size) within NHDPlus catchments on SWAT streamflow and sediment prediction. In addition, an entropy based watershed subdivision scheme is presented by using the landuse and soil spatial datasets with the conventional CSA approach to investigate if one of the CSAs can be considered to produce the best SWAT prediction on streamflow. Two watersheds (Kings Creek, Texas and Sugar Creek, Indiana) were used in this study. The study shows that there exists a subwatershed map that does not belong to one of the subwatershed maps produced through conventional CSA approach, to produce a better result on uncalibrated monthly SWAT streamflow prediction. Beyond the critical threshold, the CSA threshold which gives the best uncalibrated monthly streamflow prediction among a given set of CSAs, the SWAT performance can be improved further by subdividing some of the subwatersheds at this critical threshold. The study also shows that the input data resolution (within each NHDPlus catchments) does not have an influence on SWAT streamflow prediction for the selected watersheds. However, there is a change on streamflow prediction as the area of the NHDPlus catchment changes. Beyond a certain catchment size (8-9% of the watershed area), as the input data resolution becomes finer, the total sediment increases whereas the sediment prediction in high flow regime decreases. As the NHDPlus catchment size changes, the stream power has an influence on total sediment prediction. However, as the input data resolution changes, but keeping the NHDPlus catchment size constant, the Modified Universal Soil Loss Equation topographic factor has an influence on total sediment prediction.
Mylevaganam, Sivarajah (2009). Evaluation of Scale Issues in SWAT. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from