European Continental Scale Hydrological Model, Limitations and Challenges

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Elham Rouholahnejad, EAWAG Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Duebendorf, Switzerland and Karim Abbaspour, EAWAG Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Water resources and drinking water, Duebendorf, Switzerland
The pressures on water resources due to increasing levels of societal demand, increasing conflict of interest and uncertainties with regard to freshwater availability create challenges for water managers and policymakers in many parts of Europe. At the same time, climate change adds a new level of pressure and uncertainty with regard to freshwater supplies. On the other hand, the small-scale sectoral structure of water management is now reaching its limits. The integrated management of water in basins requires a new level of consideration where water bodies are to be viewed in the context of the whole river system and managed as a unit within their basins.

In this research we present the limitations and challenges of modelling the hydrology of the continent Europe. The challenges include: data availability at continental scale and the use of globally available data, streamgauge data quality and their misleading impacts on model calibration, calibration of large-scale distributed model, uncertainty quantification, and computation time. We describe how to avoid over parameterization in calibration process and introduce a parallel processing scheme to overcome high computation time. We used Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) program as an integrated hydrology and crop growth simulator to model water resources of the Europe continent. Different components of water resources are simulated and crop yield and water quality are considered at the Hydrological Response Unit (HRU) level. The water resources are quantified at subbasin level with monthly time intervals for the period of 1970-2006. The use of a large-scale, high-resolution water resources models enables consistent and comprehensive examination of integrated system behavior through physically-based, data-driven simulation and provides the overall picture of water resources temporal and spatial distribution across the continent. The calibrated model and results provide information support to the European Water Framework Directive and lay the basis for further assessment of the impact of climate change on water availability in Europe. The approach and methods developed are general and can be applied to any large region around the world.