Coupling urban expansion models and hydrological models: How important are spatial patterns?

Lien Poelmans, Anton Van Rompaey, Okke Batelaan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    52 Citations (Scopus)


    It is well known that urban expansion has a severe impact on the surface water balance by transforming vegetated covers into sealed surfaces. This transformation causes changing fluxes of evapotranspiration, surface runoff and groundwater recharge. In order to estimate the impact of land cover changes on the surface hydrology, hydrological models are often coupled with different types of land cover change models. It is, however, not clear to what extent spatially-explicit urban expansion scenarios provide an added value in comparison with non-spatial urban expansion models at different scale levels. The objective of this paper is to acquire a better insight in the importance of scale effects involved in the coupling of urban expansion scenarios and hydrological models. The relative importance of using different projections of both (i) quantity and (ii) spatial patterns of urban expansion was analysed at four different scale levels. The highly urbanised Flanders-Brussels region was taken as an example application. Twelve different urban expansion scenarios for 2025 and 2050 were developed and subsequently used as an input in a spatially-distributed water balance model. The results obtained suggest that at the level of the Flanders-Brussels region, an accurate estimation of the quantity of urban expansion should get priority over an accurate projection of the spatial patterns. However, the importance of using accurate projections of the spatial pattern of urban expansion increases systematically at local scale levels. A uniform strategy for coupling urban expansion models and hydrological models thus seems inappropriate. These findings are highly relevant for water management and spatial planning policymakers that typically operate at different administrative levels.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)965-975
    Number of pages11
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


    • Belgium
    • Scale effects
    • Spatial patterns
    • Urban expansion scenarios
    • WetSpass


    Dive into the research topics of 'Coupling urban expansion models and hydrological models: How important are spatial patterns?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this