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ELSEVIER EcologicalEngineering 4 (1995) 99-116

Hydrologic design of a wetland: advantages of continuous modeling

K e n n e t h D. Konyha a, ,, Douglas T. Shaw b, Kurt W. Weiler a
a Department of Agricultural Engineering, and b Department of Civil Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Charapaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA

(Received 5 September 1993;accepted 14 December 1993)

Abstract A continuous hydrologic model for constructed or depressional wetlands, intended as a design tool to supplement event-based hydrologic methods, uses reservoir routing methods and is driven by daily rainfall and watershed inflows. Simulated daily hydrology provides annual and monthly water balances, hydroperiod distributions, flood frequency distributions, soil exceedance values for hydrologic plant suitability and retention time distributions. The model was applied to a standard stormwater wetland design. The hypothetical wetland performed as designed, providing good flood reduction and an adequate supply of water even in dry years. The analysis of drawdown regimes showed that for this wetland-watershed system, the water supply was so reliable from the watershed (423 cm/year + 130 cm/year), that, without water level management, 40% of the wetland would likely develop into an open-water pond with low species diversity and an additional 40% would only support late-season emergents. Retention time distributions showed that an orifice outlet design would retain and provide longer treatment (98% of all runoff stays > 9 days) than would a weir outlet structure (60% of all runoff stays > 9 days).
Keywords: Hydrologic modelling; Wetland hydrology; Wetland design

1. Introduction With increased awareness of the beneficial functions provided by wetlands and growing concern over the continued loss of natural wetlands, interest is booming in the restoration and construction of wetland environments (Roberts, 1993). Wet-

* Corresponding author. 0925-8574/95/$09.50 1995 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved SSDI 0925-8574(93)E0052-R


K.D. Konyha et al./ Ecological Engineering 4 (1995) 99-116

land creation and restoration for wildlife habitat, water quality improvement and other functions has become one of the fastest growing areas of engineering practice. However, experience has shown that, frequently, designed wetlands do not function as intended (Kentula et al., 1992; National Research Council, 1992; Roberts, 1993). While most experts recognize that establishing an appropriate hydrologic regime is the single most important factor in a successful project, too often plans give hydrology little attention (Hammer, 1992; Mitsch and Gosselink, 1993; Roberts, 1993). The design criteria for properly functioning wetlands are, at best, only partially developed. Perhaps the biggest gap in the design and planning process is the lack of ability to understand and predict the behavior of surface and ground water on which the wetland ecosystem depends. Current design criteria for constructed wetlands are largely ad hoc or draw from traditional engineering practice oriented toward pond design. Such methods typically design for extreme events (floods and droughts) or use statistical averages while largely ignoring day-to-day behavior of the system. Too often constructed wetlands end up as open-water ponds with only a fringe of vegetation, regardless of original intentions. In a recent EPA study of constructed and natural wetlands in different parts of the U.S., it was reported that the only kinds of wetlands increasing in acreage across the U.S. are hydrologically-isolated open water ponds, despite the fact that very few such wetlands occur naturally in most parts of the country (Kentula et al., 1992). Frequently plans for created wetlands call for development of palustrine emergent marshes. However, comparison of created wetlands with natural palustrine wetlands, even 3-5 years after their completion, revealed some interesting differences; the created wetlands surveyed in the EPA study had more open water, less emergent vegetation, greater water depths, and lower monthly water level fluctuations than did their natural counterparts (Kentula et al., 1992). Design criteria currently in use and today's pressure to construct wetlands may perpetuate the construction of low value open water sites. Methodologies proposed by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration in its draft Wetland Creation Manual (Garbisch et al., 1992) prescribe calculation of an annual hydroperiod based on monthly average climate variables and using empirical relations and assumptions from hydraulic engineering to estimate surface inflows. Such methods tend to overemphasize the effects of large storm events and underestimate the contribution of inter-storm processes on wetland water levels, leading to calculated "average" conditions which may be physically meaningless. Current event-based design procedures may be quite suitable for designing hydraulic features of a site such as berms, outlets, and spillways, but are largely unsuitable for ecological engineering. Because wetland plants and animals are adapted to particular seasonal patterns of water level fluctuation, inundation, and drying, the prediction of wetland water budgets and hydroperiods is important (Novitzki, 1982). Hydrologic methods and predictive tools are needed which can evaluate wetland designs for flow control, hydroperiod, habitat suitability, and water treatment potential. One technique that can evaluate these multiple objectives is continuous hydrologic modeling. Continuous hydrologic modeling is a day-by-day evaluation of

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hydrology in a wetland using long time series of daily climate data which, necessarily, include a wide range of weather patterns. Such models produce detailed records of simulated conditions within the wetland that subsequently can be evaluated using a variety of techniques, both analytic and statistical. This paper describes a continuous hydrologic model called SWAMPMOD that can be used in the design of constructed palustrine wetlands. The methodology is compatible with traditional pond design methods with respect to extreme events, but additionally provides a wealth of important information that traditional approaches cannot. After briefly explaining the model components a demonstration of the use of the model will be presented, followed by example applications.

2. Conceptual description of model

2.1. Basic assumptions

SWAMPMOD is designed to simulate daily hydrologic conditions within wetlands. It is best suited for modeling small constructed palustrine marshes or natural depressional wetlands such as potholes, kettles, and playa lakes. Very large riverine, floodplain, or natural lacustrine wetlands cannot be modeled with SWAMPMOD and are better suited to gradually-varied flow models of the type proposed by Kadlec and others (Hammer and Kadlec, 1986; Evans and Roig, 1993). SWAMPMOD is intended to be used as a wetland design tool, and concern is therefore given to the availability of data, speed of operation and post-processing of results. Our objective in selecting this modeling approach was to strike a balance between ease of use and complexity of the processes considered.

Watershed Inflows


Fig. 1. Conceptual model of a constructed palustrine wetland.


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Fig. 1 illustrates the conceptual wetland modeled by S W A M P M O D ; a shallow pond receiving watershed inflows with various outflows. This conceptualization is essentially the same as that suggested by Duever (1988). Inflows to the model are watershed inflow, rainfall and potential evapotranspiration. The model calculates estimates of actual evapotranspiration, deep and lateral seepage from the wetland, principal spillway flow, emergency spillway flow, overflow and the water level in the wetland. 2.2. Description o f model components Wetland water balance The basic formula for the water budget, as given by the USDA-SCS (1992a), is: A S ~ A T = Q i - Qo, (1)

where A S / A T = the change in storage volume per change in time (storage consists of both surface water and pore water); Oi = the flow rate of water entering the wetland, v o l / t i m e ; and Qo = the flow rate of water leaving the wetland, v o l / t i m e . For water entering a wetland the formula is Qi = P + SROi + DRNi + Bi + Gi,


where P = direct precipitation on impoundment area; S R O i = surface runoff from watershed; D R N i = subsurface drainage from watershed; Bi = base flow entering the wetlands; and G~ = seepage and springs from ground water sources. For water leaving a wetland the formula is Qo = A E T + RPo + Re o + L o + Do,


where A E T = evaporation and transpiration from the wetland; Rpo = flow leaving via the principal spillway; Re o = flow leaving via the emergency spillway; L o = lateral seepage leaving the wetland; and D O= deep percolation from the wetland. The model solves Eq. 1 using explicit Euler integration methods to predict outflows. Fifteen minute time steps are used when weir flow occurs, 24-h time steps are used if no weir flow occurs. Water storage in the wetland Water storage in the wetland as modeled by S W A M P M O D has two components: freely drainable water and plant-available water. The freely drainable water term includes both above-ground water and freely drainable soil water; this allows water levels in the wetland to drop below the soil surface as a result of seepage and evapotranspiration. Plant-available water provides water for evapotranspiration during dry periods and must be replenished before freely drainable water. The relationship between storage and water surface elevation assumes level-pool conditions; i.e., infiltration and vertical redistribution are instantaneous and the water level is uniform throughout the wetland.

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Water inflows to the wetland

SWAMPMOD accepts up to four types of watershed inputs; for example, surface runoff, tile drainage, shallow lateral groundwater flow and deep groundwater flow. Daily inflows and rainfall are provided by the user to reduce input file size. The daily input data are dynamically converted to 15-min increments using simple disaggregation schemes; a SCS Type II design storm distribution (USDASCS, 1984) is used to disaggregate daily rainfall into 15-min precipitation depths and surface inflows from the watershed are disaggregated by applying the weighted SCS curve number equation to the disaggregated rainfall. Other inflows are assumed constant over the day.

Potential daily evapotranspiration (PET) must be provided by the user. Daily actual evapotranspiration (AET) is assumed to be equal to PET as long as the water level in the wetland is above the rooting depth of the plants. When the water level drops below the rooting depth the model assumes that plant-available water can still supply AET until plant-available water is depleted.

Surface outflows from the wetland

Constructed wetlands typically have well-defined outlets, usually a principal outlet for small to intermediate outflows and an emergency outlet for large flow events. Principal outlet and emergency spillway flows are calculated using the height of water above the control elevations of these structures at the start of each time step. The principal outlet can be modeled either as a "V"-notch weir, a sharp-crested rectangular weir, or an orifice. The emergency spillway is modeled as a broad-crested weir. Standard equations for weir and orifice flow are used (USDA-SCS, 1992a). If the elevation of the water within the wetland exceeds the height of the berm, then it is assumed that flooding occurs in that time step. The volume of flooding equals the volume of excess storage. This flood volume is completely discharged during the time step.

Seepage outflows from the wetland

Three types of subsurface seepage are allowed in the model: lateral seepage, vertical seepage, or fixed seepage. Lateral seepage represents shallow horizontal flow through the wetland berm or through the surrounding soil, and uses the equation for steady flow between reservoirs (van Schilfgaarde, 1974) with hydraulic head in the wetland equal to the water elevation in the wetland at the start of the day. Vertical seepage, for situations where the wetland is perched on a low conductivity layer, uses Darcy's one-dimensional flux equation. Such situations could occur in constructed wetlands that are sealed by compaction or by natural processes. Soil conductivity, flow path length and hydraulic head external to the wetland must be specified for these methods. A user-specified constant seepage rate can also be modeled. For all cases, seepage ceases when the water elevation inside the wetland equals the water elevation outside the wetland or when the water stored in the wetland is gone.


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2.3. Model requirements

Daily data The most important data required by the model are watershed inflows. The model requires daily values of rainfall and potential evapotranspiration, and accepts up to four types of daily watershed inflow. The source of these data is irrelevant to the model; many programs exist to model small-scale watersheds (Haan et al., 1982). For the examples used in this paper, inflows were generated using the model D R A I N M O D (Skaggs, 1980). D R A I N M O D is a widely accepted field-scale hydrologic model well suited to relatively flat, high-water table soils commonly found near wetlands. Because most watershed models account for 100% of the water leaving a watershed and because, in many cases, only a fraction of this total watershed flow will pass through a potential wetland site, SWAMPMOD allows the user to select the fraction of each type of watershed flow which enters the wetland. Site parameters The parameters needed to run S W A M P M O D are all either measurable or easily estimated. "Off-the-shelf" information from soil surveys and the like can be used for preliminary evaluations or, if more detailed analysis is desired, site-specific information can be collected in the field. Parameters are needed to describe (1) the shape of the wetland, (2) the soil characteristics within the wetland, and (3) berm and outlet characteristics. 2.4. M o d e l o u ~ u ~

S W A M P M O D produces a daily flow file, a daily retention time file, a monthly summary file and yearly summary file. The daily flow file lists rainfall, actual evapotranspiration, combined inflows, flooding, emergency spillway flow, principal outlet flow, combined seepage flow, water elevation, and the volume of water in the wetland. Post-processing programs are used to analyze the daily files. Using these programs, the data in the daily flow and retention time files can be evaluated statistically to determine median, maximum, minimum, 5-year wet, and 5-year dry hydroperiods, to calculate Soil Exceedance Values (Spoor, 1993) for predicting drawdown regimes and associated aspects of wetland habitat, to determine the probability distribution of inflows and outflows, and to establish the retention time distribution.
2.5. Model implementation

The S W A M P M O D program as currently implemented is relatively fast but space intensive. Although the program will run on any 640 kb "PC-compatible" computer, it is recommended that a '386 machine (or faster) with math coprocessor

K~D. Konyha et al./ Ecological Engineering 4 (1995) 99-116


be used. On a 66 MHz '486 machine, execution time for a 30-year simulation is 3 min. The basic SWAMPMOD program requires approximately 74 kb of hard disk space. A 30-year input data file requires an additional 350 kb of space. Outputs from a 30-year simulation temporarily consume 2000 kb of space, but can be reduced to 120 kb when archived. The executable programs were written using MicroSoft QuickBASIC. The model and accompanying documentation are available from the authors.

3. Demonstration

To demonstrate the utility of continuous modeling, a standard wetland design for stormwater management is evaluated using SWAMPMOD. A hypothetical wetland was designed according to criteria developed by the State of Maryland and the Washington Area Council of Governments for stormwater wetlands (Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources, 1987; Schueler, 1992). These criteria were chosen because they are among the few available design criteria for constructed wetlands and are typical of current practice. Details of the design are given below. The wetland is intended to provide stormwater detention for the 2-year, 24-h storm while also maintaining suitable habitat for waterfowl.

3.1. Description of watershed

The hypothetical wetland is located at the outlet of a 20-ha (50 acres) watershed in central Illinois. One third of the watershed is farmland, one third residential and one third parkland. The farmland is on a well-drained Drummer SiCL soil (Hydrologic Soil Group B) with tile drain spacing of 46 m (150 ft). The crop is continuous corn under conservation tillage. The SCS curve number for this land is 75. The residential land has lot sizes of 0.1 ha (0.25 acre) and is on Flannigan SiCL soil (Hydrologic Soil Group B). The SCS curve number for this land is 75. The parkland is on a poorly drained Drummer SiCL (Hydrologic Soil Group D). The SCS curve number for this land is 80. Such a land use pattern is typical of rural/suburban watersheds in central Illinois. The area-weighted curve number for the watershed is 77. Using this curve number and standard SCS design methods, the 2-year 24-h runoff volume is estimated to be 0.51 ha. m (50 acre inches), the 2-year peak discharge rate is 2 m3/s (70 ft3/s) and the 25-year peak discharge rate is 5.7 m3/s (200 ft3/s) (USDA-SCS, 1984). Continuous, daily hydrologic data are needed for input to SWAMPMOD. For this demonstration, the data were prepared by simulating total watershed hydrology using a physically-based runoff model, DRAINMOD (Skaggs, 1980). Climate data were from Urbana, Illinois for 1962 through 1992, obtained from the Illinois State Water Survey. Estimates of potential evapotranspiration were calculated by the modified Thornthwaite equation (Thornthwaite and Mather, 1957) from daily minimum and maximum temperatures. Details of the DRAINMOD parameters and soil characteristics can be found in Drablos et al. (1988). Average annual water


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Table 1 Average annual watershed hydrology based on climate data from 1962 to 1992 at Urbana, Illinois. Data were prepared using D R A I N M O D (Skaggs, 1988) Rainfall (era) farmland parkland residence Total 100.7 Evapotranspiration Infiltration (era) 98.5 96.0 96.6 Surface runoff Drainage (cm) 28.3 17.4 9.4 Seepage (cm) 9.2 9.6 4.7 Total runoff

61.0 69.1 65.0 (77 a)

2.3 4.7 6.1 4.4

39.8 31.7 6.1 18.5 (+17.2 b)


a Potential evapotranspiration was 77 cm. b Although total modeled outflow from the watershed was 35.7 cm, 17.2 cm of watershed drainage and seepage was assumed to circumvent the wetland.

balances are shown in Table 1. These values are in reasonable agreement with measured outflows from small watersheds in the region (Mitchell, 1993).

3.2. Description of wetland

The hypothetical stormwater wetland design is shown in Fig. 2. Depth zone allocations (Table 2) were similar to those recommended for a shallow marsh stormwater wetland by the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Committee (Schueler, 1992) having large areas of high marsh and low marsh, a forebay to capture sediments and a micropool near the outlet. The hypothetical wetland has a permanent pool area of 0.81 ha (2 acres), with an additional 0.15-ha (0.37 acre) area for detention storage. Fig. 3a shows a plot of area versus elevation and Fig. 3b shows a plot of storage volume versus elevation for this wetland. The control depth is 1.5 m (5 ft), above the bottom of the pool, and the depth of detention storage is 0.6 m (2 ft), providing a detention storage volume approximately equal to the runoff from the 2-year 24-h event (0.51 h a - m ) . This wetland is 4% of the total watershed area and has 50 ha of watershed per ha m of permanent storage, well above the Illinois pond design standard of 16 (Schwab et al., 1981). The wetland soil influences hydrology (1) by affecting rooting depth, (2) by providing plant-available water during dry periods, (3) by determining drainable soil water, and (4) by controlling water movement in the soil. The soil used in this example was a Drummer SiCL, 3 m thick, and all soil parameters used were from measured data typical of this soil (Drablos et al., 1988). The plant-available water was 0.272 m / m and the rooting depth was assumed to be a constant 0.61 m. The lateral hydraulic conductivity was 1.0 m / d a y , and subsurface water loss was assumed to occur along the 275-m perimeter of the wetland via lateral seepage through the 3-m-thick soil to subsurface drains located 60 m from the wetland. This 60-m distance equals the minimum recommended distance between wetlands and drains allowed by the USDA-SCS (1992b) for this soil type. The hydraulic head in the surrounding lands was a constant 0.6 m, relative to the bottom of the wetland.

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Low Marsh


High Marsh

Detention Storage

F----20 m --.I


Fig. 2. Topographic sketch of shallow-marsh wetland (from Schueler, 1992). Elevation contours (2-ft intervals) are taken relative to the outlet control elevation (1.5 m above the bottom of the pool).

Stormwater outflow is controlled by an 0.061-m (0.2 ft) orifice outlet which can drain 80% of the detention storage within 24 h. Emergency flow passes through a 15-m x 10-m broad-crested weir capable of passing the peak flow from the 25-year

Table 2 Allocation of depth zones within the wetland R a n g e of water depth (m), relative to normal pool Forebay Micropool Deepwater "Low Marsh " " H i g h Marsh" "Semi-Wet" 0.9 to - 1.8 0.9 to - 1.8 0.3 to - 1.2 0.15 to - 0.3 0 to - 0.15 0 to +0.6 Percent of surface area 5 5 5 30 48 7 Percent of t re a t me nt volume 2 3 18 31 45 0


g.D. Konyha et aL /Ecological Engineering 4 (1995) 99-1 l 6

Shallow Marsh with Foreboy and Pool


._- .......




0.40 0.60 0.80 surface area of pool (ha)



Shallow Marsh with Forebay and Pool

2.0 1.5 "E 1.0

.................................................. .............................................

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

-0.5 ~







volume of water in wetland (ha-m)

Fig. 3. (a) Area ponded versus elevation in the hypothetical wetland shown in Fig. 2. (b) Water volume stored versus elevation in the hypothetical wetland shown in Fig. 2. Hatched area shows drainable soil water beneath the wetland. design storm. T h e orifice elevation is 1.52 m (5 ft) a n d the invert of the weir is at 2.13 m (7 ft). T h e elevation of the top of the b e r m is 2.44 m (8 ft).

4. Continuous model results

C o n t i n u o u s m o d e l i n g with S W A M P M O D was used to evaluate the hypothetical design described above. T h e results that follow provide i n f o r m a t i o n o n the w e t l a n d

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Table 3 Average monthly and average annual wetland flow values for two seepage conditions. All values are expressed as centimeters of depth over the 0.96-ha wetland Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Ann Rain (cm) E T a (cm) Inflow (cm) 5 1 41 5 2 35 0 34 5 0 1 38 8 4 47 0 45 6 0 0 51 10 7 58 5 49 6 1 5 53 10 10 44 3 38 6 0 3 41 10 12 28 1 21 5 0 2 23 12 14 27 1 18 5 0 1 23 10 12 17 0 16 5 0 2 20 8 8 13 0 8 5 0 0 12 7 5 17 0 13 5 0 0 19 8 2 32 1 24 5 0 2 33 8 1 64 3 60 6 1 3 66 101 78 423 13 367 64 3 20 422

Moderate seepage case: seepage controlled by lateral subsurface flow

Emergency spillway (cm) 0 Weir (cm) 42 Seepage (cm) 6 Emergency spillway (cm) 0 Weir (cm) 1 Seepage (cm) 46 a Evapotranspiration.

High seepage case: seepage controlled by permeability

water balance, hydroperiods, and the reduction of runoff volumes achieved by the design. The average monthly and average annual water balance for the 31 years of the simulation are presented in Table 3 as the moderate seepage case. The inflow from the watershed (423 cm equals 18.5 cm from the 20-ha watershed re-distributed over the 0.96 ha of the wetland) was much greater than the 23 cm of net rainfall (total rainfall minus ET) on the wetland. Consequently, watershed inflow dominated the hydrology of the site. Seepage from the wetland (64 cm) was significant but accounted for only 14% of the total outflow; most of the outflow left via the orifice weir. A small amount of outflow (13 cm) passed over the emergency spillway and no overtopping of the berm occurred. The volumes of inflow and outflow decreased from June through October, typically months with a net rainfall deficit. The changes in water elevation over time for 4 specific years are shown in Fig. 4 and a summary of the frequency analysis of the annual hydroperiods over the 30-year simulation are shown in Fig. 5. The years selected for inclusion in Fig. 4 represent a drought year (1988), a wet year (1990), and two relatively normal years (1989 and 1991). It is seen that during most of the year water levels were at or near the control elevation (1.52 m), with storm events causing short-term jumps in the water level that took about 10 days to drain away. A drop in the water level occurred during the summer in 3 of the 4 years, sometimes in early summer (in the very dry 1988 year), and sometimes in mid-late summer (1989 and 1991). The frequency analysis of daily water elevations (Fig. 5) provides information on the expected hydroperiod of the wetland. The small difference between the 5-year wet and 5-year dry elevations indicate small annual variability with high water periods evenly distributed throughout the year. There was less than a one in five chance (5-year return period low elevations) that water elevations drop below 1.2 m (1.52 m-0.3 m) and, therefore, there is high probability that the low marsh will not be


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Water Elevations for Four Years DM-RUI~OFF inflow, seepage = 64 cm


I~'* . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

o = o






Day of Year

ld0 2;0 2;0 2;0 3;o


Fig. 4. Water elevations for 4 years for moderate seepage case.

fully exposed during the summer. For many wetland plants native to central Illinois marshes, such a water level regime would be on the wet side, such plants being adapted to summer dry-out periods. However, for stormwater quality management such a regime may be desirable for ensuring adequate treatment of pollutants. We will discuss these issues further in subsequent examples. Daily inflow and outflow volumes were ranked, sorted and converted to an approximate return period and plotted on Fig. 6. The figure shows that the detention storage worked as designed; the wetland was able to detain all waterStatistical Water Elevations inflow, seepage = 6 4 c m Median
2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .



Minimum Maximum

5-Yr Wet 5 - r Dry '\2"~,

0.5 ....................................................................

30 60 90 120150180 210 240 270 3()0 330 360 Day of Year

Fig. 5. Statistical water elevations (hydroperiods) for moderate seepage case.

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Flow Rote versus Return Period DM-RUNOFF inflow, seepage = 64 cm 120

/ /

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . -/- . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .





~ 4o
0 i , , , , ,,,,
, i , , , , , , , , , , , , , i ,


1 Return Period (yr)



- - - inflows


outflows 1

Fig. 6. Comparison of peak daily inflows and outflows for moderate seepage case.

shed runoff from 2-year return period events and smaller, as shown by the near constant outflow rates for these storms. Only for larger storms did emergency spillway flow occur, resulting in increased daily outflow volumes. Even at these higher return periods outflow was reduced by approximately 20 cm/day.

Consideration of seepage The above analysis assumed that water in the soil beneath the wetland could not penetrate the impervious layer; seepage had to pass laterally to the surrounding lands. Other seepage scenarios are also possible. One method sometimes applied to detention pond design assumes that seepage equals the soil permeability of the tightest layer. Misapplication of this method can lead to serious overestimation of seepage losses. This assumption is only valid when water in the wetland is "perched", flowing vertically through a restrictive layer to a lower layer that can drain water fast enough to remain unsaturated. Duever (1988) notes that such cases are probably rare in natural wetlands and that apparent perched conditions more often represent transient events. However, perching can occur in constructed wetlands that are sealed by compacting sub-soil layers. The "high seepage case" of Table 3 shows the water balance when this assumption is applied to the hypothetical wetland. The permeability used here was 0.09 m/day, the low end of the permeability range for a silt or loam soil (USDA-SCS, 1992a) and an order of magnitude lower than the conductivity used in the previous example. Even so, predicted seepage was so large (422 cm) for this case that almost no flow passed through the weir. The water elevations for this case (not shown) were almost always at the water elevation of the st/rrounding land and the wetland was generally dry. If this analysis were to be believed, the designer would probably


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have recommended that the wetland be sealed, resulting in a substantial and unnecessary increase in construction cost.

5. Applications
The utility of continuous hydrologic modeling of wetlands is not limited to evaluations of hydroperiods but can also be used to evaluate wetland functions. Continuous modeling offers a method of creating a large simulated data base, reflecting wetland hydrology under a wide range of conditions. This data base can be used to evaluate hydrology-dependent functions and can be used to supplement field data, which at present is in short supply for wetlands. This section briefly demonstrates how continuous modeling might be used for evaluating habitat suitability and water quality improvement. Both examples use the "moderate seepage" scenario modeled above.

5.1. Hydrologic suitability for plants

S W A M P M O D can predict hydrologic suitability for plants if the relationship between hydrology and a plant's water needs can be quantified. Recent field work in England (Spoor, 1993) has found that the soil exceedance value (SEV, a concept borrowed from agronomic crop production) provides a simple, quantifiable relationship between "wetness" and plant needs which is applicable to many wetland species. The SEV-30 is an indicator of wetness and is defined as

SEV - 30 =

~] (WAT/),


where SEV-30 is the soil exceedance value for an entire growing season, "first" is the first day of the growing season, "last" is the last day of the growing season, and WAT; is a daily value of the elevation of the water above a datum located 30 cm below the soil surface, roughly representing the minimum depth of root aeration. WAT i is defined to be zero when the water table is below 30 cm. For example, if the water level were 5 cm below the soil surface every day for a 200-day growing season, SEV-30 would be 5000 cm- days ((30 - 5 cm) x 200 days). In comparing SEV-30 values for two different wetlands (or two different locations in the same wetland) over growing seasons of identical length, high values indicate greater wetness. SEV-30 values can be easily calculated at any ground surface elevation within the wetland from daily water elevations. It should be noted that SEV-30 is only one possible hydrologic indicator of wetness and may not be the most relevant for some wetlands or certain plant species. Nevertheless, simple indicators of this type can be highly informative. To show how SEV-30 values can be used to evaluate a wetland design we will return to the example wetland above. The conceptual approach to wetland plant behavior and habitat suitability discussed here is based on the Fish and Wildlife

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Table 4 Evaluation of a wetland to determine hydrologic suitability ranges for waterfowl vegetation. T h e control was at 1.52 m Timing of drawdown Dry Early-season (Apr 1 - M a y 14) SEV-30 (cm-days) < 1500 1500 to 3500 Probability of occurrence mean + 1 s.d. mean - 1 s.d. + 1 s.d. mean - 1 s.d. + 1 s.d. mean - 1 s.d. mean Elevation range (m) > 1.80 1.70-1.90 1.65-1.80 1.60-1.75 1.52-1.70 1.51-1.65 1.49-1.60 1.40-1.52 1.35-1.51 1.25-1.49 < 1.35 Percentage of wetland 12.0 2.5 3.0 3.0 3.5 5.0 12.0 23.0 40.0 44.0 40.0

Mid-season (May 1 5 - J u n 30) Late-season (Jul 1 - J u l 20) Flooded

3500 to 6500

6500 to 10000 > 10000

Service Moist Soils Management techniques (Fredrickson, 1991). The focus of this approach is the efficient production of seeds and fruit by wetland plants as food for waterfowl. A critical component of this management plan is the slow drawdown of water levels at particular time periods, creating a moist mud fiat zone that facilitates germination and Seed production. Three distinct drawdown periods have been identified: early-season, mid-season, and late-season. Different plant species respond differently to timing and rate of drawdown, such that a given drawdown pattern favors certain species and inhibits others. Good management also requires refilling the wetland later in the year to provide good foraging conditions. The management system recommends year to year variability in drawdowns so as to maximize species diversity. The issues to be addressed in the following example are (a) What vegetation type is likely to grow within the wetland if the wetland is unmanaged? and (b) Is the water supply sufficient to allow management? We have found that in Illinois, SEV-30 values are highly correlated with the timing of the drawdown. Estimates of upper and lower limits for SEV-30 in Illinois for each drawdown period are shown in Table 4. The water elevation data of the 30-year simulation were analyzed and annual SEV values determined as a function of the ground surface elevation within the wetland. The mean and standard deviation of these SEV values were determined as functions of area and elevation and the upper and lower SEV-30 limits, which define each drawdown regime, were used to establish elevations and areas associated with each drawdown regime (Table 4). The SEV-30 analysis shows that, on most years, only a small fringe area of the wetland (about 8% of the total area) is suitable for early-season and mid-season vegetation, about 40% is suitable for late-season vegetation and about 40% is flooded the entire year (SEV-30 greater than 10000 era. day). On dry years (note: one standard deviation has about a 5-year return period) the lower water levels


K.D. Konyha et aL / Ecological Engineering 4 (1995) 99-116

expose some of the wetland earlier in the season, increasing the area suitable for early- and mid-season vegetation. Nevertheless, a large percentage of the wetland remains permanently flooded. This simulation confirms that, without management, water elevations will be very close to the control elevation and much of the low marsh will remain permanently flooded (even during dry years). These unchanging conditions would probably result in low species diversity. On the other hand, the wetland is well-supplied (and perhaps even over-supplied) and management of water levels to encourage greater species diversity could be possible through artificial drawdowns.
5.2. Retention time distribution

A frequently-used definition of retention time is the ratio of ponded water within the wetland and the flow rate leaving the wetland over a specified time period (USDA-SCS, 1992a). Abundant empirical evidence exists to suggest that removal of certain pollutants in wetlands increases with increasing residence time, at least up to a point. That is, the longer a quantity of water and its associated pollutants remain in the wetland, the greater the likelihood that those pollutants will be removed from the water column. Retention time is, at best, only an approximation a water particle's residence time in the wetland since the definition implicitly assumes total mixing. Still, the term is useful in comparing relative behaviors of wetlands and providing a best-case estimate of treatment potential. SWAMPMOD calculates an average daily retention time for each day of the simulation. These retention times are ranked, and their corresponding daily flow volumes summed and normalized to produce retention time distributions like the

Comparing the Effect of Outlet Type on the Distribution of RefenflonTimes

100 ~-=~.
90 80 ---~ ............................................................... ..... -:-~ ..................................................


70 .......... ~ . ~ _ _ _ ~ i i i i i


I weir





~ 3o
10 ...................................................................






Retention Time (days) Fig. 7. A comparison of retention time distributions for two outlet structures; a 0.06-m orifice and a 0.15-m rectangular weir. Both simulations assume moderate seepage.

K.D. Konyha et al. /Ecological Engineering 4 (1995) 99-116


ones shown in Fig. 7. The retention time distribution shows the dynamic nature of wetland systems and shows how much of the outflow resides in the wetland for any given period of time. Fig. 7 shows two retention time distributions for the hypothetical wetland which illustrate the effect of different primary outlet designs. One design, described above, is an orifice with an opening of 0.06 m sized to drain 80% of the detention storage volume within 24 h. The second design employed a 0.15-m-wide rectangular weir of the type commonly used in waterfowl wetlands, designed for water level control rather than retention. The greatest difference between the two flow distributions occurs at 9 days retention time. The orifice design, able to store most storm runoff, retained over 98% of all outflow for at least 9 days while the weir design retained only 60% of the outflow. Longer retention times should facilitate those water treatment processes which depend on microbial activity. Note that both structures retained 40-50% of the outflow for 14 days, reflecting the large volume of water that enters this wetland as seepage and subsurface tile drainage.

6. Conclusions

Continuous hydrologic modeling provides the design engineer with a flexible tool that can be used to supplement the event-based hydrologic methods now in use. The simulated daily hydrology provides a rich array of information which can be manipulated to evaluate annual and monthly water balances, hydroperiod distributions, flood frequency distributions, soil exceedance values or other indicators of hydrologic plant suitability and retention time distributions. Using measurable input parameters, SWAMPMOD models all major hydrologic components within the wetland. For this reason, the model is well suited to evaluating the relative importance of the hydrologic components and for evaluating the need for pre-appraisal studies. As an example of this, alternate methods of estimating seepage were compared. To demonstrate the value of SWAMPMOD's multi-objective approach a standard wetland design was evaluated. The model found that the detention characteristics of the design were excellent. However, the simulation also showed that the oversupply of water resulted in nearly uniform water levels throughout most years. Hydrologic suitability studies (SEV) indicated that much of the wetland would likely develop into on open water pond with low species diversity. This analysis supports recent wetland surveys which show many constructed wetlands developing into open ponds.

Drabios, C.J.W., K.D. Konyha, F.W. Simmons and M.C. Hirschi, 1988. Estimating soil parameters used
in DRAINMOD for artificially drained soils in lllinois, paper no. 88-2565. American Society of Agricultural Engineers St. Joseph, M1, pp. 88-2565.


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