Modeling of flood generation in semi-arid catchment using a spatially distributed model: case of study Wadi Mekerra catchment (Northwest Algeria)

Original Paper


This paper aims to apply the MERCEDES distributed hydrological model with an event-based mode to simulate flood generation in the Wadi Mekerra basin situated northwest of Algeria. This catchment is characterized by a semi-arid climate, convective thunderstorms, and ephemeral flow. The input data are mainly the daily rainfall-runoff and numerical maps such as slope, flow direction, and land use. The comparison between calculated and measured runoff revealed that the MERCEDES performance to simulate flood generation in Wadi Mekerra basin is encouraging and satisfying which is justified by the Nash–Sutcliffe and observations standard deviation ratio criteria. However, the proposed model tends to underestimate peak runoff due to convective rainfall that may be much localized in space. Furthermore, the sensitivity analysis shows that the hydrological response in the Wadi Mekerra catchment depends strongly on the potential maximum retention parameter which is related to the land use type and varies significantly between seasons according to the vegetation cover dynamics, rainfall intensity, and drought.


MERCEDES model Rainfall-runoff Wadi Mekerra Flood generation Loss and routing methods Land use 


A (m2)

Cell area


Runoff coefficient


Curve number

ds (day−1)

Drainage coefficient





Ia (mm)

Initial loss


Empirical constant of proportionality

P(t) (mm)

The cumulative rainfall


Observations standard deviation ratio



S(t) (mm)

Soil reservoir capacity (the potential maximum retention)


Propagation time


Soil drainage


Fraction of the subsurface water

Lm (m)

Flow path length

V0 (m s−1)

Transfer speed


Atelier Hydrologique Spatialisé


Digital elevation model


Maillage Elémentaire Régulier Carré pour l’Etude Des Ecoulements Superficiels


Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency criterion


Observations standard deviation ratio criteria


Sidi Ali Ben Youb


Sidi Bel Abbes


Soil Conservation Service


Shuttle Radar Topography Mission



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their beneficial comments which really contributed to improving the paper. They would also like to thank the editors for their support during the review process. Also, we thank the National Agency of Hydraulic Resources (ANRH) in Oran City and the directorate of Water Resources in Sidi Bel Abbes City for providing the data. The authors would like to thank the Research Institute for Development (IRD) which is the developer of ATHYS software.


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Copyright information

© Saudi Society for Geosciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Water and Structures in Their Environment Laboratory (Laboratoire Eau et Ouvrages dans Leur Environnement EOLE), Faculty of TechnologyUniversity of Abou Bekr BelkaidTlemcenAlgeria

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