A time-varying distributed unit hydrograph method considering soil moisture Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract. The distributed unit hydrograph (DUH) method has been widely used for flow routing in a watershed because it adequately characterizes the underlying surface characteristics and varying rainfall intensity. Fundamental to the calculation of DUH is flow velocity. However, the currently used velocity formula assumes a global equilibrium of the watershed and ignores the impact of time-varying soil moisture content on flow velocity, which thus leads to a larger flow velocity. The objective of this study was to identify a soil moisture content factor, which, based on the tension water storage capacity curve, was derived to investigate the response of DUH to soil moisture content in unsaturated areas. Thus, an improved distributed unit hydrograph, based on time-varying soil moisture content, was obtained. The proposed DUH considered the impact of both time-varying rainfall intensity and soil moisture content on flow velocity, assuming the watershed to be not in equilibrium but varying with soil moisture. The Qin River basin and Longhu River basin were selected as two case studies, and the synthetic unit hydrograph (SUH), the time-varying distributed unit hydrograph (TDUH) and the current DUH methods were compared with the proposed method. Then, the influence of time-varying soil moisture content on flow velocity and flow routing was evaluated, and results showed that the proposed method performed the best among the four methods. The shape and duration of the unit hydrograph (UH) were mainly related to the soil moisture content at the initial stage of a rainstorm, and when the watershed was approximately saturated, the grid flow velocity was mainly dominated by excess rainfall. The proposed method can be used for the watersheds with sparse gauging stations and limited observed rainfall and runoff data.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Yi, B., Chen, L. u., Zhang, H., Singh, V. P., Jiang, P., Liu, Y., Guo, H., & Qiu, H.

complete list of authors

  • Yi, Bin||Chen, Lu||Zhang, Hansong||Singh, Vijay P||Jiang, Ping||Liu, Yizhuo||Guo, Hexiang||Qiu, Hongya

publication date

  • October 2022