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Application of a hydrological model in a data-poor arid region catchment: a case study of Wadi Ham, United Arab Emirates

By Mohamed Mustafa Al Mulla


Many arid region Wadi catchments are facing increasing water scarcity due to the unsustainable human practises such as the over expansion of irrigated agriculture and over exploitation of their groundwater aquifers. The “Soil and Water Assessment Tool” (SWAT) model, which is a comprehensive conceptual, semi-distributed watershed scale model, was selected after a review of the hydrological processes occurring in arid region catchments to simulate the hydrological processes of the Wadi Ham catchment in northeast United Arab Emirates. A sensitivity analysis conducted for SWAT for the total runoff, maximum runoff and days of runoff showed that a DEM resolution of no more than 100 m should be used for proper representation of such mountainous arid catchments. The appropriate size of defined sub-basins was found to be about 18 km 2 . The sensitivity analysis also demonstrated that the most sensitive parameters that affect the ephemeral streamflow are mainly related to the soil and channel properties of the catchment soil depth, soil available water capacity, soil bulk density, soil clay percentage, soil curve number, baseflow recession constant and channel effective hydraulic conductivity. SWAT simulated the ephemeral streamflow in Wadi Ham acceptably. For the calibration period of 1981 and 1982, the performance statistics for DRMS, PBIAS, NSE and PEM were 1.10 m 3 /s, 27.12%, 0.78 and 0.80 respectively. During the validation period between 1983 and 1988, the DRMS, PBIAS, NSE and PEM were 0.93 m 3 /s, -27.30%, 0.57 and 0.70 respectively. SWAT showed very plausible behaviour for reservoir sedimentation, plant growth, irrigation abstraction and groundwater recharge via the transmission losses mechanism. However, SWAT was not able to adequately simulate the recharge from the bottom of the recharge dam reservoir due to an inappropriate maximum effective hydraulic conductivity defined by the model. Two management scenarios were simulated. The first scenario related to the construction of an additional dam upstream and its effect on sedimentation rate in the main reservoir. The second scenario found that the recharge volumes could be enhanced through the construction of a discharge inlet point into the main stream channel for the treated wastewater from the principal town upstream of the catchment. The successful simulation of Wadi Ham represents the first use of SWAT in a truly arid climate. This research has therefore established the feasibility of using SWAT as a tool for integrated catchment modelling in arid region data- poor Wadi catchments and to support improved water resources management in this water stressed environment

Publisher: Cranfield University
Year: 2005
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Cranfield CERES

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