Articles | Volume 3, issue 1
08 Apr 2010
 | 08 Apr 2010

Modelling sediment export, retention and reservoir sedimentation in drylands with the WASA-SED model

E. N. Mueller, A. Güntner, T. Francke, and G. Mamede

Abstract. Current soil erosion and reservoir sedimentation modelling at the meso-scale is still faced with intrinsic problems with regard to open scaling questions, data demand, computational efficiency and deficient implementations of retention and re-mobilisation processes for the river and reservoir networks. To overcome some limitations of current modelling approaches, the semi-process-based, spatially semi-distributed modelling framework WASA-SED (Vers. 1) was developed for water and sediment transport in large dryland catchments. The WASA-SED model simulates the runoff and erosion processes at the hillslope scale, the transport and retention processes of suspended and bedload fluxes in the river reaches and the retention and remobilisation processes of sediments in reservoirs. The modelling tool enables the evaluation of management options both for sustainable land-use change scenarios to reduce erosion in the headwater catchments as well as adequate reservoir management options to lessen sedimentation in large reservoirs and reservoir networks. The model concept, its spatial discretisation scheme and the numerical components of the hillslope, river and reservoir processes are described and a model application for the meso-scale dryland catchment Isábena in the Spanish Pre-Pyrenees (445 km2) is presented to demonstrate the capabilities, strengths and limits of the model framework. The example application showed that the model was able to reproduce runoff and sediment transport dynamics of highly erodible headwater badlands, the transient storage of sediments in the dryland river system, the bed elevation changes of the 93 hm3 Barasona reservoir due to sedimentation as well as the life expectancy of the reservoir under different management options.