SWAT-CS enm : Enhancing SWAT nitrate module for a Canadian Shield catchment

Nonpoint source modeling using hydrological models has been extensively studied at agriculture and urban watersheds; however, this has not been well addressed in forested ones where agricultural sources are comparatively minimal and nitrogen deposition exerts remarkable impacts on the nutrient cycles of a catchment. Thus it is critically important for hydrological models to incorporate the dynamics of nitrogen deposition and its transport processes, for reasonable nitrogen modeling. This is especially so for the Canadian Shield, which is characterized by a cold climate and special physiographic features. A revision of Soil and Water Assessment Tool for Canadian Shield (SWAT-CS) was proposed by Fu et al. (2014) to better characterize the hydrological features. In this study, more revisions were added to better simulate processes of nitrate by: 1) incorporating the dynamics of nitrogen deposition; and 2) allowing the deposition to distribute along with rapid-moving macropore flows. The newly revised model, SWAT-CSenm (SWAT-CS with an Enhanced Nitrate Module), and SWAT-CS were calibrated and tested with data of a subbasin of Harp Lake in south-central Ontario for 1990 to 2007. Modeling performance of nitrate flux rate in the stream for SWAT-CSenm was nearly acceptable with maximum daily Nash Sutcliffe efficiencies (ENSs) for calibration and validation periods of 0.66 and 0.43, respectively; whereas the result of SWAT-CS was generally unsatisfied with maximum daily ENSs of 0.16 and 0.07, respectively. An uncertainty analysis using GLUE (generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation) showed a modest performance as about 50% of observations can be incorporated by the 95% prediction range deriving from the behavioral solutions (ENS=0.5) for both daily and monthly simulations. It is concluded that the enhanced nitrate module improved the model performance of SWAT-CS on nitrate modeling, since the previous SWAT-CS failed to consider the effect of dynamics of nitrogen deposition and its sequential processes at the investigated site.