Geomorphology-based unit hydrograph models for flood risk management: case study in Brazilian watersheds with contrasting physiographic characteristics

An Acad Bras Cienc. 2018 Apr-Jun;90(2):1873-1890. doi: 10.1590/0001-3765201820170430. Epub 2018 May 21.


Heavy rainfall in conjunction with an increase in population and intensification of agricultural activities have resulted in countless problems related to flooding in watersheds. Among the techniques available for direct surface runoff (DSR) modeling and flood risk management are the Unit Hydrograph (UH) and Instantaneous Unit Hydrograph (IUH). This study focuses on the evaluation of predictive capability of two conceptual IUH models (Nash and Clark), considering their original (NIUH and CIUH) and geomorphological approaches (NIUHGEO and CIUHGEO), and their advantages over two traditional synthetics UH models - Triangular (TUH) and Dimensionless (DUH), to estimate DSR hydrographs taking as reference two Brazilian watersheds with contrasting geomorphological and climatic characteristics. The main results and conclusions were: i) there was an impact of the differences in physiographical characteristics between watersheds, especially those parameters associated with soil; the dominant rainfall patterns in each watershed had an influence on flood modeling; and ii) CIUH was the most satisfactory model for both watersheds, followed by NIUH, and both models had substantial superiority over synthetic models traditionally employed; iii) although geomorphological approaches for IUH had performances slightly better than TUH and DUH, they should not be considered as standard tools for flood modeling in these watersheds.