Baseflow is often considered to be the groundwater discharge component of streamflow. It is commonly estimated using conceptual models, recursive filters or a combination of the two. However, it is difficult to validate these methods due to the current challenges of measuring baseflow in the field. In this study, simulation of a synthetic catchment's response to rainfall is carried out using a fully integrated surface water-groundwater flow model. A series of rainfall events with differing recovery periods and varied antecedent moisture conditions is considered to span a range of different streamflow generation dynamics. Baseflow is estimated for the outlet hydrograph of the synthetic catchment using a selection of commonly used automated baseflow separation methods. These estimates are compared to the baseflow signal obtained from the numerical model, which serves as the control experiment. Results from these comparisons show that depending on the method used, automated baseflow separation underestimates the simulated baseflow by as much as 28%, or overestimates it by up to 74%, during rainfall events. No separation method is found to be clearly superior to the others, as the performance of the various methods varies with different soil types, antecedent moisture conditions and rainfall events. The differences between the various approaches clearly demonstrate that the baseflow separation methods investigated are not universally applicable.
- Baseflow separation
- Physically based surface-subsurface model
- Surface water-groundwater interaction