Use of the soil and water assessment tool to scale sediment delivery from field to watershed in an agricultural landscape with topographic depressions

James E. Almendinger, Marylee S. Murphy, Jason S. Ulrich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations

Abstract

For two watersheds in the northern Midwest United States, we show that landscape depressions have a significant impact on watershed hydrology and sediment yields and that the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) has appropriate features to simulate these depressions. In our SWAT models of the Willow River in Wisconsin and the Sunrise River in Minnesota, we used Pond and Wetland features to capture runoff from about 40% of the area in each watershed. These depressions trapped considerable sediment, yet further reductions in sediment yield were required for calibration and achieved by reducing the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) cropping-practice (P) factor to 0.40 to 0.45. We suggest terminology to describe annual sediment yields at different conceptual spatial scales and show how SWAT output can be partitioned to extract data at each of these scales. These scales range from plot-scale yields calculated with the USLE to watershed-scale yields measured at the outlet. Intermediate scales include field, upland, pre-riverine, and riverine scales, in descending order along the conceptual flow path from plot to outlet. Sediment delivery ratios, when defined as watershed-scale yields as a percentage of plot-scale yields, ranged from 1% for the Willow watershed (717 km2) to 7% for the Sunrise watershed (991 km2). Sediment delivery ratios calculated from published relations based on watershed area alone were about 5 to 6%, closer to pre-riverine-scale yields in our watersheds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Volume43
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

Copyright:
Copyright 2014 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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