Predicting freshwater resources is a major concern in West Africa, where large parts of the population depend on rain-fed subsistence agriculture. However, a steady decline in the availability of in-situ measurements of climatic and hydrologic variables makes it difficult to simulate water resource availability with hydrological models. In this study, a modeling framework was set up for sparsely-gauged catchments in West Africa using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), whilst largely relying on remote sensing and reanalysis inputs. The model was calibrated using two different strategies and validated using discharge measurements. New in this study is the use of a multi-objective validation conducted to further investigate the performance of the model, where simulated actual evapotranspiration, soil moisture, and total water storage were evaluated using remote sensing data. Results show that the model performs well (R2
calibration: 0.52 and 0.51; R2
validation: 0.63 and 0.61) and the multi-objective validation reveals good agreement between predictions and observations. The study reveals the potential of using remote sensing data in sparsely-gauged catchments, resulting in good performance and providing data for evaluating water balance components that are not usually validated. The modeling framework presented in this study is the basis for future studies, which will address model response to extreme drought and flood events and further examine the coincidence with Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) total water storage retrievals.
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