How well can the subsurface storage–discharge relation be interpreted and predicted using the geometric factors in headwater areas?

Jintao Liu, Xiaole Han, Xi Chen, Henry Lin, Aihua Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Headwater storage–discharge (S–Q) remains one of the least understood processes, and there is renewed interest in the S–Q relation. How well can the S–Q relation be interpreted mechanistically using geometric factors? In this paper, the hillslope storage Boussinesq and hillslope storage kinematic wave equation were adopted to guide the theoretical derivations. Analytical solutions were derived based on the hsKW equation for nine idealized hillslope aquifers, which were subdivided into two groups, i.e. hillslope aquifers with exponential hillslope width function (C1) and hillslope aquifers with Gaussian hillslope width function (C2). We found that analytical expressions of the S–Q relation can be derived for C1 hillslope aquifers. For more compound hillslope aquifers, i.e. C2, no explicit S–Q relation can be obtained. The whole subsurface recession after a rainstorm is simulated by applying the initial saturation condition. We found that the simulated S–Q processes can be characterized by a two-phase recession, i.e. quick and slow recession. The time (tb) at the dividing point of the quick and slow recessions depends on the geometric factors, such as the plan and profile curvature. In the quick recession for C1, many of the S–Q curves can be described as linear or quasi-linear functions, which indicate that linear reservoir models can be applied approximately for recession simulations. However, during the slow recession phase of C1 and during the whole recession of C2, the S–Q relations are highly non-linear. Finally, we compared the hillslope storage kinematic wave and hillslope storage Boussinesq models for simulating subsurface water recession after a rainstorm event in a real-world headwater catchment (G5) in China. Through comparison of the recession slope curves, we found that the simulated results of the models employing the Gaussian hillslope width function match the observed hydrograph. The results indicated that appropriate organization of the hillslope geometric factors enhances our ability to make S–Q predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4826-4840
Number of pages15
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number25
StatePublished - Dec 15 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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