Using the SWAT model to improve process descriptions and define hydrologic partitioning in South Korea
Watershed-scale modeling can be a valuable tool to aid in quantification of water quality and yield; however, several challenges remain. In many watersheds, it is difficult to adequately quantify hydrologic partitioning. Data scarcity is prevalent, accuracy of spatially distributed meteorology is difficult to quantify, forest encroachment and land use issues are common, and surface water and groundwater abstractions substantially modify watershed-based processes. Our objective is to assess the capability of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model to capture event-based and long-term monsoonal rainfall–runoff processes in complex mountainous terrain. To accomplish this, we developed a unique quality-control, gap-filling algorithm for interpolation of high-frequency meteorological data. We used a novel multi-location, multi-optimization calibration technique to improve estimations of catchment-wide hydrologic partitioning. The interdisciplinary model was calibrated to a unique combination of statistical, hydrologic, and plant growth metrics. Our results indicate scale-dependent sensitivity of hydrologic partitioning and substantial influence of engineered features. The addition of hydrologic and plant growth objective functions identified the importance of culverts in catchment-wide flow distribution. While this study shows the challenges of applying the SWAT model to complex terrain and extreme environments; by incorporating anthropogenic features into modeling scenarios, we can enhance our understanding of the hydroecological impact.