This paper presents a comparative analysis of the use of an externally linked (MOBIDIC-MODFLOW) and a physically based (MIKE SHE) surface water-groundwater model to capture the integrated hydrologic responses of the Thomas Brook catchment, in Canada. The main objective of the study is to investigate the effect of simplification in representation of the hydrological processes in MOBIDIC-MODFLOW on its simulation accuracy. To this aim, MOBIDIC and MODFLOW were coupled in order to sequentially exchange the groundwater recharge and baseflow discharges within each computation time step. Using identical sets of hydrogeological properties for the two models, the coefficients of the gravity and capillary reservoirs in MOBIDIC were calibrated so as to closely predict the hydrological budget of the catchment simulated with MIKE SHE. The simulated results show that the two models can closely replicate the observed water table responses at two monitoring wells. However, in very shallow water table locations, the instantaneous response of the water table was not precisely captured in MOBIDIC-MODFLOW. Additionally, the simplified conceptualization of the unsaturated flow in MOBIDIC-MODFLOW resulted in overestimated groundwater recharge during spring and underestimation during summer. Moreover, the computational efficiency of MOBIDIC-MODFLOW, as compared to MIKE SHE, along with less required input data, confirms its potential for regional scale groundwater-surface water interaction modelling applications.
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