Chinese Geographical Science

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 47–60 | Cite as

A Modified Groundwater Module in SWAT for Improved Streamflow Simulation in a Large, Arid Endorheic River Watershed in Northwest China

  • Xin Jin
  • Chansheng He
  • Lanhui Zhang
  • Baoqing Zhang


Interactions between surface water and groundwater are dynamic and complex in large endorheic river watersheds in Northwest China due to the influence of both irrigation practices and the local terrain. These interactions interchange numerous times throughout the middle reaches, making streamflow simulation a challenge in endorheic river watersheds. In this study, we modified the linear-reservoir groundwater module in SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tools, a widely used hydrological model) with a new nonlinear relationship to better represent groundwater processes; we then applied the original SWAT and modified SWAT to the Heihe River Watershed, the second largest endorheic river watershed in Northwest China, to simulate streamflow. After calibrating both the original SWAT model and the modified SWAT model, we analyzed model performance during two periods: an irrigation period and a non-irrigation period. Our results show that the modified SWAT model with the nonlinear groundwater module performed significantly better during both the irrigation and non-irrigation periods. Moreover, after comparing different runoff components simulated by the two models, the results show that, after the implementation of the new nonlinear groundwater module in SWAT, proportions of runoff components changed-and the groundwater flow had significantly increased, dominating the discharge season. Therefore, SWAT coupled with the non-linear groundwater module represents the complex hydrological process in the study area more realistically. Moreover, the results for various runoff components simulated by the modified SWAT models can be used to describe the hydrological characteristics of lowland areas. This indicates that the modified SWAT model is applicable to simulate complex hydrological process of arid endorheic rivers.


Soil and Water Assessment Tools (SWAT) groundwater irrigation streamflow Heihe River 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agricultural Ecology, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xin Jin
    • 1
  • Chansheng He
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lanhui Zhang
    • 2
  • Baoqing Zhang
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Geographical ScienceQinghai Normal UniversityXiningChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of West China’s Environmental System (Ministry of Education), Center for Dryland Water Resources Research and Watershed Science, College of Environment and Earth ScienceLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of GeographyWestern Michigan UniversityKalamazooUSA

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