Journal article

Hydrological modelling of the Zambezi River Basin taking into account floodplain behaviour by a modified reservoir approach

Floodplains are regions of great interest for environmental assessment as they constitute important ecological reserves and contribute efficiently to natural flood attenuation. However, the implementation of a model describing the basic hydrological behaviour of floodplains is not an easy task due to the complexity of the processes included. Although several attempts have been made to simulate floodplain effects in global rainfall-runoff models, no satisfactory routines have been developed yet. In this study, an adapted version of the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (2009) reservoir model is proposed and applied to the Zambezi Basin at daily time step with the intention of adequately modelling floodplain behaviour. The model separates the outflow of the reservoir simulating the floodplain into main channel flow and flow over the floodplain area. The improved solution was compared with the original model regarding its potential to simulate observed discharges in terms of volume ratio, the Nash–Sutcliffe coefficient and hydrograph plots. These evaluation criteria attest, for both calibration and validation periods, that the modified model is superior to the original one for simulating the discharge downstream of large floodplains. A sensitivity analysis is carried out at two geographical levels: at the outlet of a floodplain and at the outlet of the entire basin. The results show that upper flow parameters are more sensitive than base flow parameters.

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