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Revised parameter estimation methods for the Pitman monthly rainfall-runoff model

by Kapangaziwiri, E.

Abstract (Summary)
In recent years, increased demands have been placed on hydrologists to find the most effective methods of making predictions of hydrologic variables in ungauged basins. A huge part of the southern African region is ungauged and, in gauged basins, the extent to which observed flows represent natural flows is unknown, given unquantified upstream activities. The need to exploit water resources for social and economic development, considered in the light of water scarcity forecasts for the region, makes the reliable quantification of water resources a priority. Contemporary approaches to the problem of hydrological prediction in ungauged basins in the region have relied heavily on calibration against a limited gauged streamflow database and somewhat subjective parameter regionalizations using areas of assumed hydrological similarity. The reliance of these approaches on limited historical records, often of dubious quality, introduces uncertainty in water resources decisions. Thus, it is necessary to develop methods of estimating model parameters that are less reliant on calibration. This thesis addresses the question of whether physical basin properties and the role they play in runoff generation processes can be used directly in the estimation of parameter values of the Pitman monthly rainfall-runoff model. A physically-based approach to estimating the soil moisture accounting and runoff parameters of a conceptual, monthly time-step rainfall-runoff model is proposed. The study investigates the physical meaning of the model parameters, establishes linkages between parameter values and basin physical properties and develops relationships and equations for estimating the parameters taking into account the spatial and temporal scales used in typical model applications. The estimationmethods are then tested in selected gauged basins in southern Africa and the results of model simulations evaluated against historical observed flows. The results of 71 basins chosen from the southern African region suggest that it is possible to directly estimate hydrologically relevant parameters for the Pitman model from physical basin attributes. For South Africa, the statistical and visual fit of the simulations using the revised parameters were at least as good as the current regional sets, albeit the parameter sets being different. In the other countries where no regionalized parameter sets currently exist, simulations were equally good. The availability, within the southern African region, of the appropriate physical basin data and the disparities in the spatial scales and the levels of detail of the data currently available were identified as potential sources of uncertainty. GIS and remote sensing technologies and a widespread use of this revised approach are expected to facilitate access to these data.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:institute for water research iwr

ISBN:

Date of Publication:01/01/2008

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