The errors in surface runoff prediction by neglecting the relationship between infiltration rate and overland flow depth

Rony Wallach*, Galina Grigorin, Judith Rivlin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many simplifications are used in modeling surface runoff over a uniform slope A very common simplification is to determine the infiltration rate independent of the overland flow depth and to combine it afterward with the kinematic-wave equation to determine the overland flow depth. Another simplification is to replace the spatially variable infiltration rates along the slope i(x, t) due to the water depth variations h(x, t) with an infiltration rate that is determined at a certain location along the slope. The aim of this study is to evaluate the errors induced by these simplifications on predicted infiltration rates, overland flow depths, and total runoff volume. The error analysis the accomplished by comparing a simplified model with a model where the interaction between the over and flow depth and infiltration rate is counted. In this model the infiltration rate is assumed to vary along the slope with the overland flow depth even for homogeneous soil profiles. The kinematic-wave equation with interactive infiltration rate, calculated along the slope by Richard's equation, are then solved by a finite difference scheme for a 100-m-long uniform slope. In the first error analysis, we study the effect of combining an 'exact' and 'approximate' one-dimensional infiltration rate with the kinematic-wave equation for three different soil surface roughness coefficients. The terms 'exact' and 'approximate' stand for the solution of Richard's equation with and without using the overland flow depth, in the boundary condition, respectively. The simulations showed that higher infiltration rates and lower overland/low depths are obtained during the rising stage of the hydrograph when overland flow depth is used in the upper boundary condition of the one-dimensional Richard's equation. During the recession period, the simplified model predicts lower infiltration rates and higher overland flow depths. The absolute relative errors between the 'exact' and 'approximate' solutions are positively correlated to the overland flow depths which increase with the soil surface roughness coefficient. For this error analysis the relative errors in surface runoff volume per unit slope width throughout the storm are much smaller their the relative errors in momentary overland flow depths and discharges due to the alternate signs of the deviations along the rising and falling stages. In the second error analysis, when the spatially variable infiltration rate along the slope i(x, t) is replaced in the kinematic-wave equation by i(t), calculated at the slope outlet, the overland flow depth is underestimated during the rising stage of the hydrograph and overestimated during the falling stage. The deviations during the rising stage are much smaller than the deviations during the falling stage, but they are of a longer duration. This occurs because the solution with i(x, t) recognizes that part of the slope becomes dry after rainfall stops, while overland flow still exists with i(t) determined at the slope outlet. As obtained for the first error analysis, the relative errors in surface runoff volume per unit slope width are also much smaller than the relative errors in momentary overland flow depths and discharges. The relation between the errors in overland flow depth and discharge to different mathematical simplifications enables to evaluate whether certain simplifications are justified or more computational efforts should be used.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)243-259
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume200
Issue number1-4
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Dec 1997

Keywords

  • Errors
  • Infiltration rate
  • Kinematic-wave equation
  • Overland flow depth
  • Prediction
  • Surface runoff

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