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Development and assessment of rules to parameterise the ACRU model for design flood estimation.

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Design Flood Estimation (DFE) is essential in the planning and design of hydraulic structures. Recent flooding in the country has highlighted the need to review the techniques used to estimate design floods in South Africa, where old and outdated methods are widely applied. In this study the potential of a Continuous Simulation Modelling (CSM) approach to DFE in South Africa is highlighted, identifying the benefits of a CSM approach over event based approaches. The daily time-step ACRU agrohydrological model has provided reasonable results for DFE in several pilot studies. A review on hydrological modelling and the links and similarities between the SCS-SA and ACRU models, however, highlighted that in terms of land cover information, the land cover classification used in the SCS-SA model accounts for different land management practices and hydrological conditions, which are not accounted for in the current versions of the ACRU land cover classification. Since the CNs used in the original SCS model were derived from observations, and the SCS-SA model is an accepted method of DFE in small catchments in South Africa (Schmidt and Schulze, 1987a; Schulze et al., 2004; SANRAL, 2013), it was assumed in this study that the design volumes simulated by the SCS-SA model are reasonable, and that the relative changes in design volumes simulated by the SCS-SA model as a consequence of changes in land management practice or condition are also reasonable. Based on these assumptions, the general approach to the study was to investigate how design volumes simulated by the SCS-SA model for various land management practices or conditions could be simulated by the ACRU model, and to derive classes in the ACRU hierarchical classification for land management practice and hydrological condition. Consequently, design runoff volumes and changes in design runoff volumes, for different management practices and hydrological conditions, as simulated by the SCS-SA model, were used as a substitute for observed data, i.e. as a reference, to achieve similar design runoff volumes and changes in design volumes in the ACRU model. This was achieved by adjusting relevant variables in the ACRU model to represent the change in management practice or hydrological condition, as represented in the SCS-SA model. After three initial attempts failed to produce comparable simulation results between the SCS-SA and ACRU models a sensitivity analysis of ACRU variables was conducted in order to identify which ACRU variables would represent SCS-SA Curve Numbers (CNs) best for selected land cover classes. The sensitivity analysis identified two ACRU variables best suited to achieve this task, namely QFRESP and SMDDEP. Calibration of QFRESP and SMDDEP values against CN values for selected land cover classes was performed. A strong relationship between these ACRU variables and CN values for selected land cover classes was achieved and consequently specific rules and equations were developed to represent SCS-SA land cover classes in ACRU. Recommendations, however, are suggested to further validate and substantiate the approach and developed rules and equations.


Master of Science in Hydrology. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2015.


Flood forecasting--South Africa., Hydraulic structures--Design and construction., Watersheds--South Africa., Parametric amplifiers., Theses--Hydrology., Agricultural Catchments Research Unit., ACRU.