Modeling Earth Systems and Environment

, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 275–289 | Cite as

Evaluation of SWAT performance in modeling nutrients of Awash River basin, Ethiopia

  • Amare Shiberu KeragaEmail author
  • Zebene Kiflie
  • Agizew Nigussie Engida
Original Article


Awash River basin has been recognized as exporting the highest amount of various pollutants in Ethiopia since the basin encompasses the main urban, industrial and agricultural centers of the nation. However, investigation of pollution level of the basin by nutrients is necessary for decision makers to safeguard Awash river and its end users, which has not been addressed yet. This study, therefore, evaluated performance of the Soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) by modeling nitrate and phosphate at the basin scale. First, the model was set up using digital elevation model, climate, soil, and land use data. Thereafter, overall performance of the model was assessed by linking its outputs to the Sequential Uncertainty FItting Version 2 procedure of the SWAT Calibration and Uncertainty Program. The most sensitive parameters for the flow and nutrients were identified using t stat and p values from global sensitivity analysis of the SWAT-CUP. The goodness-of-fit of the monthly calibration measured by coefficient of determination, Nash–Sutcliffe Efficiency, and root mean square error-observations standard deviation ratio were, respectively 0.79, 0.64 and 0.60 for flow; 0.73, 0.71 and 0.54 for nitrate and 0.77, 0.76 and 0.49 for phosphate. During validation, the objective functions were, respectively 0.81, 0.52 and 0.70 for flow; 0.68, 0.63 and 0.61 for nitrate and 0.82, 0.81 and 0.44 for phosphate. The results suggested that the simulated values of the variables fitted well with the observed ones and hence, SWAT is found to be promising to simulate nutrients in the basin.


Nitrate Phosphate SUFI2 algorithm SWAT-CUP Water quality 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Chemical and Bio-EngineeringAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.School of Civil and Environmental EngineeringAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia

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