A Coupled SWAT-AEM Modelling Framework for a Comprehensive Hydrologic Assessment Academic Article uri icon


  • This study attempts to integrate a Surface Water (SW) model Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) with an existing steady-state, single layer, unconfined heterogeneous aquifer Analytic Element Method (AEM) based Ground Water (GW) model, named Bluebird AEM engine, for a comprehensive assessment of SW and GW resources and its management. The main reason for integrating SWAT with the GW model is that the SWAT model does not simulate the distribution and dynamics of GW levels and recharge rates. To overcome this issue, often the SWAT model is coupled with the numerical GW model (either using MODFLOW or FEFLOW), wherein the spatial and temporal patterns of the interactions are better captured and assessed. However, the major drawback in integrating the two models (SWAT withMODFLOW/FEM) is its conversion from Hydrological Response Units (HRU)/sub-basins to grid/elements. To couple them, a spatial translation system is necessary to move the inputs and outputs back and forth between the two models due to the difference in discretization. Hence, for effective coupling of SW and GW models, it may be desirable to have both models with a similar spatial discretization and reduce the need for rigorous numerical techniques for solving the PDEs. The objective of this paper is to test the proof of concept of integrating a distributed hydrologic model with an AEM model at the same spatial units, primarily focused on surface water and groundwater interaction with a shallow unconfined aquifer. Analytic Element Method (AEM) based GW models seem to be ideal for coupling with SWAT due to their innate character to consider the HRU, sub-basin, River, and lake boundaries as individual analytic elements directly without the need for any further discretization or modeling units. This study explores the spatio-temporal patterns of groundwater (GW) discharge rates to a river system in a moist-sub humid region with SWAT-AEM applied to the San Jacinto River basin (SJRB) in Texas. The SW-GW interactions are explored throughout the watershed from 20002017 using the integrated SWAT-AEM model, which is tested against stream flow and GW levels. The integrated SWAT-AEM model results show good improvement in predicting the stream flow (R2 = 0.650.80) and GW levels as compared to the standalone SWAT model. Further, the integrated model predicted the low flows better compared to the standalone SWAT model, thus accounting for the SW-GW interactions. Almost 80% of the stream network experiences an increase in groundwater discharge rate between 2000 and 2017 with an annual average GW discharge rate of 1853 Mm3/year. The result from the study seems promising for potential applications of SWAT-AEM coupling in regions with considerable SW-GW interactions.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Sangeetha, K., Narasimhan, B., & Srinivasan, R.

complete list of authors

  • Sangeetha, K||Narasimhan, Balaji||Srinivasan, R

publication date

  • September 2022