Towards more systematic perceptual model development: A case study using 3 Luxembourgish catchments
S. Wrede, F. Fenicia, N. Martínez-Carreras, D. Kavetski, and L. Pfister
Hydrological Processes, vol. 29, no. 12, pp. 2731–2750, 2015
The synthesis of experimental understanding of catchment behaviour and its translation into qualitative perceptual models is an important objective of hydrological sciences. We explore this challenge by examining the cumulative understanding of the hydrology of three experimental catchments and how it evolves through the application of different investigation techniques. The case study considers the Huewelerbach, Weierbach and Wollefsbach headwater catchments of the Attert basin in Luxembourg. Subsurface investigations including bore holes and pits, analysis of soil samples and Electrical Resistivity Tomography measurements are presented and discussed. Streamflow and tracer data are used to gain further insights into the streamflow dynamics of the catchments, using end-member mixing analysis and hydrograph separation based on dissolved silica and electrical conductivity. We show that the streamflow generating processes in all three catchments are controlled primarily by the subsolum and underlying bedrock. In the Huewelerbach, the permeable sandstone formation supports a stable groundwater component with little seasonality, which reaches the stream through a series of sources at the contact zone with the impermeable marls formation. In the Weierbach, the schist formation is relatively impermeable and supports a ‘fill and spill’-type of flow mechanism; during wet conditions, it produces a delayed response dominated by pre-event water. In the Wollefsbach, the impermeable marls formation is responsible for a saturation-excess runoff generating process, producing a fast and highly seasonal response dominated by event water. The distinct streamflow generating processes of the three catchments are represented qualitatively using perceptual models. The perceptual models are in turn translated into quantitative conceptual models, which simulate the hydrological processes using networks of connected reservoirs and transfer functions. More generally, the paper illustrates the evolution of perceptual models based on experimental fieldwork data, the translation of perceptual models into conceptual models and the value of different types of data for processes understanding and model representation. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.