A process-based, distributed hydrologic model based on a large-scale method for surface-subsurface coupling

Chaopeng Shen, Mantha S. Phanikumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Process-based watershed models are useful tools for understanding the impacts of natural and anthropogenic influences on water resources and for predicting water and solute fluxes exported from watersheds to receiving water bodies. The applicability of process-based hydrologic models has been previously limited to small catchments and short time frames. Computational demands, especially the solution to the three-dimensional subsurface flow domain, continue to pose significant constraints. This paper documents the mathematical development, numerical testing and the initial application of a new distributed hydrologic model PAWS (Process-based Adaptive Watershed Simulator). The model solves the governing equations for the major hydrologic processes efficiently so that large scale applications become relevant. PAWS evaluates the integrated hydrologic response of the surface-subsurface system using a novel non-iterative method that couples runoff and groundwater flow to vadose zone processes approximating the 3D Richards equation. The method is computationally efficient and produces physically consistent solutions. All flow components have been independently verified using analytical solutions and experimental data where applicable. The model is applied to a medium-sized watershed in Michigan (1169km2) achieving high performance metrics in terms of streamflow prediction at two gages during the calibration and verification periods. PAWS uses public databases as input and possesses full capability to interact with GIS datasets. Future papers will describe applications to other watersheds and the development and application of fate and transport modules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1524-1541
Number of pages18
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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