A Recommended Calibration and Validation Strategy for Hydrologic and Water Quality Models Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2015 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Hydrologic and water quality (H/WQ) models are widely used to support site-specific environmental assessment, design, planning, and decision making. Calibration and validation (C/V) are fundamental processes used to demonstrate that an H/WQ model can produce suitable results in a particular application. However, the lack of comprehensive guidelines has led to the use of ad hoc, inconsistent, and incomplete C/V processes, which have made it difficult to interpret the myriad of published modeling studies, reduced the utility of many modeling applications, and slowed the advancement of H/WQ modeling. The objective of this article is to provide a generalized structure and process to assist modelers in developing a C/V strategy for H/WQ modeling applications. These best practice recommendations were developed based on an expansive review of the modeling literature, including a special collection of articles on H/WQ model calibration, validation, and use, as well as extensive discussion and debate among the authors. The model C/V recommendations include careful consideration, execution, and documentation of the following elements: (1) goals of model use, (2) data and parameters used in C/V, and (3) model C/V processes. Considerations in element 3 include the warm-up period, C/V strategy complexity, C/V process staging, spatiotemporal allocation of C/V comparison data, manual vs. automatic C/V, and additional diagnostics. Notable examples from the literature are provided for each strategy element. The comprehensive C/V strategy described herein will allow for better interpretation of future modeling studies, improved utility of modeling applications, and more systematic advancement of H/WQ models.

author list (cited authors)

  • Daggupati, P., Pai, N., Ale, S., Douglas-Mankin, K. R., Zeckoski, R. W., Jeong, J., ... Youssef, M. A.

publication date

  • January 1, 2015 11:11 AM