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GIS Application Of Distributed Modeling For Predicting Potential


Non-Point Sources Of Water Pollution For Watershed Management
Pece V. Gorsevski
University of Idaho Research Park
Post Falls, USA
Paul E. Gessler, Jan Boll
University of Idaho
Moscow, USA

Abstract
Efforts to manage National Forests in the US for wood production, while protecting water quality, are
currently constrained by models that do not address temporal dynamics of variable non-point source
(NPS) areas. NPS areas are diffuse sources of contaminants contributed by runoff or percolation as a
result of different land use activities. A distributed process-based model for predicting potential NPS
areas prone to generating runoff was applied to the 72 km2 Pete King watershed located in the
Clearwater National Forest (CNF) in central Idaho, USA. This Geographic Information System gridbased modeling approach integrates the Soil Moisture Routing (SMR) model with probabilistic
analysis. The SMR model is a daily water balance model that simulates the hydrology of forested
watersheds by combining real or stochastically generated climate data, a digital elevation model, soil,
and land use data. The probabilistic analysis involves Monte Carlo simulation, which is used to
incorporate the variability of input parameters and account for uncertainties associated with the
prediction of NPS areas. A one-year simulation was performed to examine if NPS areas prone to
generating runoff would change spatially and temporally. Sample results of this integrated approach of
dynamic prediction of saturated areas prone to generating runoff suggested that due to seasonal
variability of saturated areas the potential NPS of water pollution also varies spatially and temporally.
Results from simulated model outputs should help decision-making in effective forest management
and planning by mapping or delineating NPS areas likely to transport contaminants to perennial
surface water bodies.
Key words: GIS; water quality; water balance; distributed modeling, hydrologically sensitive area; and
Monte Carlo simulation

Introduction
Unlike point source (PS) pollution discharged from defined sources such as industrial and sewage
treatment plants, in forested watersheds, NPS pollution comes from many diffuse sources initiated by
human activities such as recreation, road building, logging, and other intensive forest management
practices. As a consequence these activities have altered the natural settings of land surfaces, thus
increasing runoff and overland flow. As the runoff moves down the slope, sediments and other
dissolved harmful particles are transported to perennial surface water bodies, which impact water
quality, water quantity, and biodiversity of aquatic life (EPA, 1997).
Sound and innovative management of forest watersheds is necessary to protect water quality. In the
U.S.A., for instance, the number of impaired water bodies placed on the 303 (d) list is still growing
(EPA, 1992). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified NPS pollutants as major
contributors to the ecological impairment of these water bodies. A need for identification and
implementation of management practices capable of controlling acceptable Total Maximum Daily
Loads (TMDLs) and minimizing NPS pollution is essential to prevent environmental damage at all
stages of management implementation. Understanding, controlling and mitigating the impacts from
existing managed watersheds usually is addressed through Best Management Practices (BMP). The
initiation of BMPs by the U.S. government encompasses a variety of activities that can provide better
guidance for improving water quality and reducing runoff while meeting TMDL requirements. However,
it is not an easy task to identify dynamic and variable areas that expand and contract through time
while different possible scenarios of land use are implemented.
Walter et al. (2000) referred to variable source areas (VSA) as saturated areas that are initiated
primarily from runoff, while falling rain on these areas becomes overland flow. In each watershed,
regions exist that are more susceptible to producing runoff than others, often considered as
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hydrologically active areas (HAA). When a pollutant is present in these HAA, the area is considered a
hydrologically sensitive area (HSA). In this paper, the term HSA refers to regions in the watershed that
are prone to generating runoff and are hydrologically sensitive with respect to transport of sediments
and other dissolved harmful particles to perennial surface water bodies.
To quantitatively identify HSA requires a distributed process-based modeling approach that can
predict the spatio-temporal patterns of these areas. In recent years the use of Remote Sensing (RS)
and GIS for distributed process-based modeling has increased. Many different spatial approaches
have been proposed based on different assumptions (Beven & Kirkby, 1979; Grayson et al., 1992a,b;
Wigmosta et al., 1994; Boll et al., 1998; Frankenberger et al., 1999). Beven & Kirkby (1979)
developed a physically-based hydrological model (TOPMODEL) driven by topographic slope and the
transmissivity of the soil. The lateral flux of water in their model is related to the upslope contributing
area. Further development of the topographically driven model resulted in the development of steadystate and dynamic models (OLoughlin, 1986). The general assumptions for these steady-state and
dynamic models are that the water table is nearly parallel to the soil surface; the saturated hydraulic
conductivity of the soil decreases exponentially with depth; and the movement of water is spatially
uniform. An advantage of using dynamic modeling is that the input variables can be varied for different
applications and used to simulate different conditions due to management. A disadvantage is that
variables that are difficult to obtain, such as soil depth, soil porosity, and hydraulic conductivity, are
required.
The function of the SMR model developed by Boll et al. (1998) and Frankenberger et al. (1999) is
appealing because of its simplicity and the model may be parameterized using publicly available data.
Implementation of SMR to assess water quality risk in the context of HSA has shown satisfactory
results in studies reported by Boll et al. (1998), Frankenberger et al. (1999), Walter et al. (2000), and
Brooks (2003). The SMR model is a dynamic process-based hydrologic model that implements a
water balance at each grid point through space and time. Soil moisture content is predicted for inputs
that are either individual rainfall events or long-term sequences of storms. The inputs can be actual
precipitation records or predicted records. Moisture above saturation results in surface runoff.
However, modeling spatially distributed processes requires knowledge of the regional heterogeneity of
the physiographical catchment characteristics such as climate, soil, topography and land use.
Because detailed mapping of regional heterogeneity in forested and mountainous areas is rare, an
alternative representation of the uncertainty and variability inherent in these parameters is needed.
In this study, we expand on the previous work that modeled HSA to assessing water quality risk by
using a more probabilistic framework for input parameters that are highly variable in space. Therefore,
this study implements distributed process-based modeling for predicting potential NPS areas prone to
generating runoff by coupling the SMR model with probabilistic analysis. Required input variables that
exhibit various levels of uncertainty due to measurement logistics and scale dependencies are
estimated by Monte Carlo simulation (Burrough & McDonnell, 1998; Malczewski, 1999). This
incorporates uncertainty exhibited by distributed input variables and allows estimation of probabilities
of occurrence. A brief overview of the components used in this integrated distributed process-based
model with probabilistic analysis is presented.

Overwiew of the gis-based integrated approach


Hydrology Model
In the SMR model (Boll et al., 1998; Frankenberger et al., 1999) the water balance is computed for
each individual grid-cell using Equation 1:
Di

d i
= P (t ) i ET (t ) i + Qin.i Qout .i Li Ri
dt

(1)

where i is the cell address;


Di is the depth of the root zone of the cell;
i is the volumetric soil moisture content of the cell;
P is precipitation (rain and snowmelt);
ETi is actual evapotranspiration;
Qin.i is lateral inflow from surrounding upslope cells;
Qout.i is lateral outflow to surrounding downslope cells;
Li is drainage out of the surface soil layers to bedrock;
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Ri is surface runoff; and t is time.


Precipitation and lateral flow from uphill cells are the input to each cell in the model, while lateral flow
to downhill cells, percolation into the subsurface, evapotranspiration, and surface runoff are the output
from each cell. Precipitation consists of all moisture inputs, including rainfall and snowmelt.
Precipitation occurring when the mean daily temperature is below 0oC is assumed to be snow. Snow
remains in the snowpack until the mean daily temperature is above 0oC. A simple temperature index
method is used to calculate snowmelt.
Evapotranspiration is calculated for each cell as a function of daily potential evapotranspiration,
vegetation, and soil moisture content in the cell. When moisture content is below wilting point, there is
no evapotranspiration. Evapotranspiration takes place only when the matric potential is at 1/3 bar or
wetter, and a linear relationship is assumed (Thornthwaite & Mather, 1955) between the wilting point
and 1/3 bar.
Subsurface lateral flow, or interflow, is calculated for each cell using Darcys Law, approximating the
hydraulic gradient by the land slope at each cell. The hydraulic conductivity depends on soil moisture
content and flow direction. If the average moisture through the soil profile in a cell is less than the field
capacity, then vertical hydraulic conductivity is calculated based on moisture content of the profile
using an exponential relationship (Bresler et al., 1978). The horizontal hydraulic conductivity is grater
than the vertical hydraulic conductivity depending on soil depth.
Lateral flow is calculated by a multiple flow path algorithm (Quinn et al., 1991) that divides the lateral
flow among all downslope cells. The lateral flow routes partially to all downslope cells weighted by the
steepest drop and distance between the cells.
Outputs from SMR, such as stream flow, may be used first to calibrate the model for a watershed with
observed stream flow data. Stream flow generated by SMR is the sum of surface runoff generated in
the watershed, subsurface lateral flow into the stream, and a portion of the water stored in the bedrock
reservoir each day, which represents the base flow.
Monte Carlo Simulation
The Monte Carlo simulation used here is a technique that relies on chance and is useful for modeling
attributes that cannot be sampled or measured directly but are expressed as mathematical functions
of properties that can be sampled (Hammond et al., 1992; Burrough & McDonnell, 1998). For each
entity or grid-cell the derivation of new data is carried out using values drawn from probability density
functions (PDFs) that closely match the distribution of a particular attribute. After running a large
number of trials (at least 100 random simulations) to eliminate variations within the resulting PDFs,
statistical properties such as mean and standard deviation for each entity can be calculated (Burrough
& McDonnell, 1998). For instance, a soil inventory describing upper and lower limits of soil depth can
be represented by a PDF with a uniform distribution function that has a rectangular shape as
described by previous work of Gorsevski (2002) and others. Within that distribution a large number of
values are generated which have an equal probability for any numerical value between the upper and
lower limit, and statistical properties (i.e., mean, maximum, minimum, standard deviation) are
estimated.

Determination of NPSs of water pollution: an application


Study Area
The integrated modeling approach was tested on the Pete King watershed in the CNF in north-central
Idaho (Figure 1). Pete King is a 72 km2 drainage, with elevation ranging from 450 to 1592 m and
slopes ranging between 0 and 45 degrees. Annual precipitation averages 970 mm. Much of this
precipitation falls as snow during winter and spring. Peak stream discharge occurs in late spring and
early summer. Soils are variable but typically well-drained and primarily derived from the Belt
Supergroup (gneiss and schist) and Idaho Batholith parent materials. The vegetation across the
elevational gradient includes Grand fir (Abies grandis), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii),
Subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa), Western redcedar (Thuja plicata), Western white pine (Pinus
Monticola), and various shrubs and grasses with short growing seasons particularly at high elevations.

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1.5

6 Kilometers

Figure 1. Study area and vegetation classes in the Pete King watershed
SMR Model Input
The SMR model was calibrated for a period of 14 months (July 1995 to September 1996) and then
used to simulate the HSA for the same year. Input for the SMR model consisted of the 7.5-minute U.S.
Geological Survey DEM, land cover derived from a satellite image classification, observed daily
weather data, and soils data from the Soil Survey Geographic Database (SSURGO) (USDA-NRCS,
2001).
The soil type for the entire study area was loam, and the soil profile was divided into three horizons (A,
B, and E). Soil moisture data were taken from Flanagan & Livingston (1995) and Saxton et al. (1986)
(see Table 1). Spatially distributed soil depth values did not exist for the Pete King watershed.
Therefore, to more realistically represent soil depth across the watershed the compound topographic
index (CTI) was used to generate spatially distributed soil values (Gessler et al., 1995; 2000). The
CTI, often referred to as the steady-state wetness index (Beven & Kirkby, 1979; Moore et al., 1991), is
defined as:
CTI = ln (As/tan )

(2)
2

where As is specific catchment area in m and


is the slope angle in degrees.
A distribution of CTI for the watershed divided evenly into four quartile classes each with different sets
of minimum and maximum soil depth values (assuming a uniform distribution) taken from SSURGO
were used in the Monte Carlo simulation. Low quartile CTI values typically characterize steep
hillslopes with shallow soil depths, (i.e., minimum 10 to maximum 30 cm). High CTI values
characterize valley-bottoms with deep soil depths (i.e., minimum 100 to maximum 250 cm). The
average CTI/depth for each cell in each quartile was described by using 1000 random simulations
representing the range in probable soil depth values for each quartile.
Table 1. Soil physical parameters used in the SMR model.
Soil
Parameters
(Lateral) Saturated conductivity
(cm/day)
(Restricting layer) Saturated
conductivity (cm/day)
Saturated moisture content (vol/vol)
Field capacity (vol/vol)
Permanent wilting (vol/vol)
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Soil Layer
A
B
160
50

E
30

Reference
Calibrated

0.04

0.04

0.04

Calibrated

0.58
0.37
0.11

0.52
0.28
0.09

0.42
0.27
0.08

Flanagan and Livingston (1995)


Flanagan and Livingston (1995)
Saxton et al. (1986)
4

BALWOIS 2004

Ohrid, FY Republic of Macedonia, 25-29 May 2004

4
3
2
0

Rainfall (cm/day)

Daily weather data from Fenn Ranger Station (4608'39" N 11535'41" W; elevation 487 m), Idaho
were used for the calibration and the simulation period (Figure 2). The temperature was adjusted for
elevation by a lapse rate of 0.64 C per 100 meters. A total of 20 missing values for the precipitation
data and 13 missing values for the temperature data for 1995-96 were interpolated for distance and
elevation differences from nearby weather stations (Dworshak Hatchery - Idaho, Kamiah - Idaho,
Kooskia - Idaho). Daily weather inputs (NOAA, 2001) consisted of minimum and maximum
temperature, and total precipitation.

09/01/1995

11/13/1995

01/25/1996

04/07/1996

06/19/1996

08/31/1996

Time in days

40

a)

20
10
0
-20

Temperature (C)

30

Maximum
Minimum

09/01/1995

11/13/1995

01/25/1996

04/07/1996

06/19/1996

08/31/1996

b)

0.6
0.4
0.0

0.2

PET (cm/day)

0.8

Time in days

09/01/1995

11/13/1995

01/25/1996

04/07/1996

Time in days

06/19/1996

08/31/1996

c)

Figure 2. Climatic data used in the SMR model: a) Hyetograph for the Pete King watershed from the
storm events 1995-96 b) observed maximum and minimum temperature, and c) potential
evapotranspiration (estimated by the method of Hargreaves (1995))
Potential evapotranspiration was estimated using the Hargreaves method (Hargreaves & Samani,
1985). A cloud-free Landsat Thematic Mapper image from 1995 was used to extract simple vegetation
classes for the study area to assign evapotranspiration coefficients. The land cover was classified
using an unsupervised clustering algorithm, which incorporated an iterative process of randomly
selecting cluster centers. A simple three-vegetation cover type classification was developed: clear-cut
areas, regenerated-young forest areas, and mature forest areas (Figure 1). Based on the classification
in 1995, the area consisted of 44% clear-cut, 28% regenerating young forest, and 28% mature forest.
Different evapotranspiration coefficients were used in the simulation for each landcover type.
SMR Model: Calibration
The SMR program first required a 60 to 90-day period to assure the SMR model output was
insensitive to the initial soil moisture content (Boll et al., 1998). An arbitrary 10% soil moisture content
for the watershed was assigned to initialize the moisture content (starting in July 1995). Initially, using
SSURGO soil depth, peak discharges were greatly over predicted for the calibration period. Since
SSURGO provides soil depth up to 150 cm, soil depths were increased (by 10cm increments) to
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10 12 14
4

Predicted
Observed

Discharge (cms)

improve the fit of the peaks between the observed and actual measurements. This process was
guided by using the CTI values described above. The final soil depth values used in the SMR model
ranged from 14 to 288 cm with a mean of 145 cm and standard deviation of 69 cm. Figure 3 shows
stream flow for the final calibrated model that was used for the simulation. Almost all stream discharge
peaks were still slightly over-predicted by the SMR model, but the general fit of the model is in close
agreement with the measured data.

09/01/1995

11/13/1995

01/25/1996

04/07/1996

06/19/1996

08/31/1996

Time in days

Figure 3. Predicted versus observed stream flow for the Pete King watershed

Results and discussion


The presented methodology was used to accomplish the following two objectives: 1) to examine if the
monthly proportion of the study area classified as HSA will be the same throughout the simulated year
(temporal change); and 2) to examine if the specific location of HSA will change over the simulated
year (spatial change).
Analysis of Temporal Prediction
Simulation results in Figure 4 showed that HSA vary throughout the simulated period. The time series
plots in Figure 4 showed that HSA cells were a function of net precipitation (r = 0.72) and soil storage
amount (r = 0.86) at different times during the year. The percent of HSA was low during dry periods
(i.e., summer, fall), and high during wet periods (i.e., winter, spring). The highest percent of HSA cells
during the simulation appears to be associated with two different events. The first event is depicted at
the end of November and at the beginning of December, while the second event is depicted in late
May. Close examination of the daily weather data and the simulated snowmelt data suggest that the
first event resulted most likely following heavy rains and perhaps rain-on-snow events while the
second event resulted from heavy rains and rapid snowmelt from increased daily temperatures
especially in the high elevation.
0

Mar 1996

10

20
Apr 1996

30

May 1996

10
20
Jun 1996

30

Jul 1996

10
20
Aug 1996

30

Percent of HSA cells

40
30
20
10

Sep 1995

Oct 1995

Nov 1995

Dec 1995

Jan 1996

Feb 1996

40
30
20
10
0
0

10

20

30

10

20

30

10

20

30

Time in days

Figure 4. Percent of HSA cells throughout the simulated period

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Analysis of Spatial Prediction


The spatial prediction of HSA for the study area showed that the location of these cells changed over
the simulated period. Figure 5 depicts the variability both spatially and temporally of HSA cells
observed in the watershed. Each map in Figure 5 represents a monthly runoff probability based on the
total days in each month. Seasonally, the lower elevation areas of the watershed and areas of
topographic convergence become saturated and produce runoff starting late fall until early spring
(November through February). In early spring the lower elevation areas of the watershed dry out while
upper elevation areas of the watershed continuous to produce runoff until early summer, which is
mostly initiated from snowmelt (March through May). In early summer the runoff decreases
significantly until the minimum runoff amount is reached in August, just before the start of the new rain
season. The variability of the monthly percent of the HSA and the percent of total runoff originating
from these areas for cells that produced runoff one or more times is shown in Figure 6. Although the
variable HSA are the largest in November (42.00 %) and December (47.70 %), the percent of total
runoff originating from these areas appears to be the largest in April (17.80 %) and May (17.51 %). As
was discussed previously it seems that the combined heavy rain and snowmelt in April and May
contributed to the larger percent of total runoff from smaller areas.

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

JUN

MAY

AUG

JUL

0.0

0.5

1.0

4 Kilometers

Probability

Figure 5. Monthly changes of HSAs in the Pete King watershed


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60.00%
% of HSA's
50.00%

% of Total runoff originating from


HSA's

Percent (%)

40.00%
30.00%
20.00%

10.00%
0.00%
Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Month
Figure 6. Monthly percent of HSAs and runoff originating from these areas
The spatial changes of HSA by different vegetation classes (i.e., clear-cut, regeneration, forest) are
shown in Figure 7. The vertical bars in the figure represent the percentage of HSA generated from
total area of each vegetation class, while the lines represent the percentage of HSA generated from
the total watershed area. The y-axis scale on the left hand side is associated with the percentage of
HSA generated from total area of each vegetation class. The y-axis scale on the right hand side is
associated with the percentage of HSA generated from the total watershed area. The percentage of
HSA from the clear-cut is the highest in most of the months except April and May when the
percentage of HSA associated with the forest class is the highest. This is due to higher temperatures
that influence snowmelt in forested areas in late spring.
60.00%

30.00%
Clear-cut
Regeneration
Forest
% of Clear-cut area
% of Regeneration area
% of Forest area

Percent (%)

50.00%

25.00%

40.00%

20.00%

30.00%

15.00%

20.00%

10.00%

10.00%

5.00%

0.00%

0.00%
Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Month
Figure 7. Monthly percent of HSAs organized by vegetation classes

Conclusion
A distributed process-based model for predicting potential NPS areas was described and applied to an
example watershed. The modeling approach was based on integration of the SMR model and Monte
Carlo simulation for generation of model inputs such as soil depth. Application of the current modeling
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approach in the Pete King watershed in north-central Idaho provided reasonable results. The results
confirmed findings reported by Frankenberger et al. (1998) where similar methodology was used,
however in this study we used Monte Carlo simulation and showed a new methodology of an
alternative representation of distributed parameters that contain various levels of uncertainty due to
measurement logistics or scale dependences to be used in areas where detailed mapping or regional
heterogeneity is not existent.
Results from the modeling approach showed that due to seasonal variability of saturated areas the
HSA also vary spatially and temporally. Mapping the extent of these specific locations that are
potential NPS areas of water pollution at one time of the year but which are insensitive at another may
help decision-makers to select the best combination of BMPs through optimization techniques (i.e.,
linear, goal, or integer programming) while meeting TMDL requirements.
The example application demonstrated the potential of this approach in yielding valuable site-specific
information especially in areas where distributed parameters are infrequent. We believe that this tool
will assist decision-makers to identify critical source areas that are potential NPSs of water pollution,
however, further testing of the modeling approach and field verification is necessary.
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