Hydrological modelling of fine sediments in the Odzi River, Zimbabwe

  • R Liden
  • J Harlin
  • M Karisson
  • M Rahmberg


Siltation of reservoirs is a major concern in Zimbabwe. Therefore, development of prediction tools is of great importance. In the present study a recently developed empirical sediment model (HBV-SED) based on a daily rainfall-runoff model was applied to simulate riverine fine sediment transport in a 2 486 km 2 catchment in eastern Zimbabwe. The model performance was evaluated and changes in the model structure were suggested. The modelling was, however, associated with many uncertainties due to the adopted simplification of transport processes. An analysis of the model structure and a comparison with the rating curve function was done. The required length of data for calibration purposes was evaluated and model validation through split sample and proxy basin comparison was performed. Furthermore, since the empirical model was dependent on monitored runoff and fine sediment concentrations for calibration purposes, a field measurement campaign was conducted to assess the accuracy of observed data at the station studied. The field measurements showed large errors in monitored runoff and fine sediment concentrations for the 1998/99 wet season, which illustrated the uncertainty in predictions of fine sediment transport based on observed data. The HBV-SED model, which was applied over a period when data were believed to be fairly accurate, simulated the fine sediment transport volume well for the validation period if it was calibrated for a minimum of four years. A shorter calibration period led to a significant increase in prediction uncertainty. The model failed to simulate individual high fine sediment peaks accurately mainly due to poor performance of the rainfall-runoff model on a daily time-scale even if the seasonal flow dynamics were described properly. In the studied catchment the HBV-SED model application resulted in equally poor R 2 -values as the rating curve technique, while the estimated fine sediment volume was more accurate.

WaterSA Vol.27(3) 2001: 303-314

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eISSN: 0378-4738