Simulating high frequency water quality monitoring data using a catchment runoff attenuation flux tool (CRAFT)

Sci Total Environ. 2016 Dec 1;572:1622-1635. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.01.045. Epub 2016 Feb 6.

Abstract

High resolution water quality data has recently become widely available from numerous catchment based monitoring schemes. However, the models that can reproduce time series of concentrations or fluxes have not kept pace with the advances in monitoring data. Model performance at predicting phosphorus (P) and sediment concentrations has frequently been poor with models not fit for purpose except for predicting annual losses. Here, the data from the Eden Demonstration Test Catchments (DTC) project have been used to calibrate the Catchment Runoff Attenuation Flux Tool (CRAFT), a new, parsimonious model developed with the aim of modelling both the generation and attenuation of nutrients and sediments in small to medium sized catchments. The CRAFT has the ability to run on an hourly timestep and can calculate the mass of sediments and nutrients transported by three flow pathways representing rapid surface runoff, fast subsurface drainage and slow groundwater flow (baseflow). The attenuation feature of the model is introduced here; this enables surface runoff and contaminants transported via this pathway to be delayed in reaching the catchment outlet. It was used to investigate some hypotheses of nutrient and sediment transport in the Newby Beck Catchment (NBC) Model performance was assessed using a suite of metrics including visual best fit and the Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency. It was found that this approach for water quality models may be the best assessment method as opposed to using a single metric. Furthermore, it was found that, when the aim of the simulations was to reproduce the time series of total P (TP) or total reactive P (TRP) to get the best visual fit, that attenuation was required. The model will be used in the future to explore the impacts on water quality of different mitigation options in the catchment; these will include attenuation of surface runoff.

Keywords: Catchment modelling; Diffuse pollution; High resolution data; Nutrient pollution; Phosphorus; Sediment transport.