Autocalibration of HSPF for Simulation of Streamflow Using a Genetic Algorithm

Sahoo, Debabrata; Smith, Patricia; Ines, Amor Valeriano M.

Hydrologic models are essential to watershed planning and management, particularly in the San Antonio River watershed where competition for scarce water resources is a challenge. As a result, the calibration and validation of hydrologic models are essential steps for their successful application. In this study, we examined the use of a loosely coupled genetic algorithm (GA) as an autocalibration tool for optimization of model parameters for the Hydrologic Simulation Program - Fortran (HSPF), a model frequently used in surface hydrology and water quality modeling. The GA-HSPF model is a more objective and less time-consuming alternative to traditional trial-and-error methods. The objective function was optimized by minimizing the mean absolute error (MAE) between corresponding simulated and observed average daily streamflow in the San Antonio River watershed. The MAE was used to evaluate the fitness of the parameter set in the GA. The calibrated model parameters (LZSN, INFILT, AGWRC, UZSN, DEEPFR, LZETP, and INTFW) were selected based on a sensitivity analysis from a previous study. Goodness-of-fit of the GA calibrated model was evaluated using the Nash-Sutcliffe coefficient of efficiency, MAE, root mean square error, flow duration curves, wavelet analysis, and total volume error. Overall simulation time with 2000 model simulations was 11 days, which can be improved significantly under parallel computing, as GA-HSPF simulations are highly independent. The objective function ceased improvement after approximately 250 simulations, with a minimized MAE of 25.8 m3/s. With the exception of DEEPFR, all optimized model parameter values were within the range cited in the literature. Nash-Sutcliffe coefficients in all simulations were above 0.5, suggesting that the simulated flows were in good agreement with the observed flows. Visual comparison between observed and simulated stream flow using time series and flow duration curves showed that the GA calibrated model was unable to simulate peak flow events accurately, particularly in the 0% to 10% exceedence range. It is hypothesized that the storage-based routing scheme in HSPF limits its ability to predict peak flows in this watershed. Comparison between observed and simulated flows in the wavelet domain indicated that the GA calibrated model was not able to preserve the scale and location of some high frequencies, but the scale and location of lower frequencies were preserved. The cyclic nature of the streamflow in this watershed was more prominent in lower frequencies. While overall flow rates were adequately predicted using a GA-HSPF approach, future work in this watershed needs to focus on multi-objective optimization that optimizes both volumes and peak flows. The GA-HSPF model offers an objective and efficient method for calibration and validation, a useful tool in watershed planning efforts.


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International Research Institute for Climate and Society
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September 4, 2012