The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) Ecohydrological Model Circa 2015: Global Application Trends, Insights and Issues
Abstract:The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) is one of the most widely used watershed-scale water quality models in the world. Over 2,000 peer-reviewed SWAT-related journal articles have been published and hundreds of other studies have been published in conference proceedings and other formats. The use of SWAT was initially concentrated in North America and Europe but has also expanded dramatically in other countries and regions during the past decade including Brazil, China, India, Iran, South Korea, Southeast Asia and eastern Africa. The SWAT model has proven to be a very flexible tool for investigating a broad range of hydrologic and water quality problems at different watershed scales and environmental conditions, and has proven very adaptable for applications requiring improved hydrologic and other enhanced simulation needs.
We investigate here the various technological, networking, and other factors that have supported the expanded use of SWAT, and also highlight current worldwide simulation trends and possible impediments to future increased usage of the model. Examples of technological advances include easy access to web-based documentation, user-support groups, and SWAT literature, a variety of Geographic Information System (GIS) interface tools, pre- and post-processing calibration software and other software, and an open source code which has served as a model development catalyst for multiple user groups. Extensive networking regarding the use of SWAT has further occurred via internet-based user support groups, model training workshops, regional working groups, regional and international conferences, and targeted development workshops. We further highlight several important model development trends that have emerged during the past decade including improved hydrologic, cropping system, best management practice (BMP) and pollutant transport simulation methods. In addition, several current SWAT weaknesses will be addressed and key development needs will be described including the ability to represent landscapes and practices with more spatial definition, the incorporation of a module specifically designed to simulate rice paddy systems and algorithms that can capture plant competition dynamics such as occur in complex tree/crop systems and interactions between crops and weeds.