Soil hydraulic properties, which are basically saturated and unsaturated hydraulic conductivity and water retention characteristics, remarkably control the main hydrological processes in catchments. Thus, adequate parameterization of soils is one of the most important tasks in physically based catchment modeling. To estimate these properties, the choice of the PTFs in a hydrological model is often made without taking the runoff characteristics of the catchment into consideration. Therefore, this study introduces a methodology to analyze the sensitivity of a catchment water balance model to the choice of the PTF. To do so, we define 11 scenarios including different combinations of PTFs to estimate the van Genuchten parameters and saturated hydraulic conductivity. We use a calibrated/validated hydrological model (WaSiM-ETH) as a baseline scenario. By altering the underlying PTFs, the effects on the hydraulic properties are quantified. Moreover, we analyze the resulting changes in the spatial/temporal variation of the total runoff and in particular, the runoff components at the catchment outlet. Results reveal that the water distribution in the hydrologic system varies considerably amongst different PTFs, and the water balance components are highly sensitive to the spatial structure of soil hydraulic properties. It is recommended that models be tested by careful consideration of PTFs and orienting the soil parameterization more towards representing a plausible hydrological behavior rather than focusing on matching the calibration data.
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