Quantifying discharge uncertainty from remotely sensed precipitation data products in Puerto Rico 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Harshi Weerasinghe, Roozbeh Raoufi, Yeosang Yoon, Edward Beighley II and Akram Alshawabkeh, Northeastern University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Boston, MA, United States
Preterm birth is a serious health issue in the United States that contributes to over one-third of all infant deaths. Puerto Rico being one of the hot spots, preliminary research found that the high preterm birth rate can be associated with exposure to some contaminants in water used on daily basis. Puerto Rico has more than 200 contaminated sites including 16 active Superfund sites. Risk of exposure to contaminants is aggravated by unlined landfills lying over the karst regions, highly mobile and dynamic nature of the karst aquifers, and direct contact with surface water through sinkholes and springs. Much of the population in the island is getting water from natural springs or artesian wells that are connected with many of these potentially contaminated karst aquifers. Mobility of contaminants through surface water flows and reservoirs are largely known and are highly correlated with the variations in hydrologic events and conditions.

In this study, we quantify the spatial and temporal distribution of Puerto Rico’s surface water stores and fluxes to better understand potential impacts on the distribution of groundwater contamination. To quantify and characterize Puerto Rico’s surface waters, hydrologic modeling, remote sensing and field measurements are combined. Streamflow measurements are available from 27 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) gauging stations with drainage areas ranging from 2 to 510 km2. Hillslope River Routing (HRR) model is used to simulate hourly streamflow from watersheds larger than 1 km2 that discharge to ocean. HRR model simulates vertical water balance, lateral surface and subsurface runoff and river discharge. The model consists of 4418 sub-catchments with a mean model unit area (i.e., sub-catchment) of 1.8 km2. Using gauged streamflow measurements for validation, we first assess model results for simulated discharge using three precipitation products: TRMM-3B42 (3 hour temporal resolution, 0.25 degree spatial resolution); NWS stage-III radar rainfall (~ 5 min temporal resolution and 4 km spatial resolution); and gauge measurements from 37 rainfall stations for the period 2000-2012. We then explore methods for combining each product to improve overall model performance. Effects of varied spatial and temporal rainfall resolutions on simulated discharge are also investigated.