Spatial regression approach to estimate synthetic unit hydrograph by geomorphic characteristics of watersheds in arid regions

Luminda N. Gunawardhana*, Ghazi A. Al-Rawas, Mahad S. Baawain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Rainfall-runoff relationship in arid regions is unique and challenging to study. Studies for bridging the hydro-meteorological knowledge gap for planning, designing and managing water resources is therefore vitally important. The objective of this study is to develop a method for estimating unit hydrograph at reasonably finer time resolutions (10-min and 1-h) which can be easily adaptable by practitioners at sub-catchment levels, especially when the focus area is ungauged. Observed wadi-flow at 5-min interval and tipping bucket rainfall measurements at 1-min interval were obtained to cover 10 major watersheds in Oman. The deconvolution method was applied to derive the unit hydrographs (UHs) from wadi-flow and excess rainfall. Key catchment characteristics such as the watershed area, length of the main wadi and the length to the centroid of the catchment area were derived from digital elevation model (DEM) data. The whole study area was then divided into 515 sub-catchments with various shapes and sizes. A strong relationship was found between the wadi length and the length to the centroid of the catchment area (R2>0.89). This relationship was then adopted to simplify the classical Snyder method to determine UHs. Moreover, several parameters of the Snyder method were calibrated to the arid environment by matching the peak-flow, lag-time and three time-widths (75%, 50% and 30% of the peak-flow) of 10-min and 1-h UHs with physical characteristics of the watersheds. All developed relationships were validated with independent rainfall and wadi-flow events. Results indicate that the calibrated parameters in these arid watersheds are quite distinct from those suggested for other regions of the world. A marked difference was found between the 10-min UHs estimated by the S-hydrograph method and the deconvolution method. Therefore, it is concluded that a method depends on natural hydro-meteorological conditions would be more practical in arid region. The proposed methodology can be used for water resources management in arid regions having similar climate and geographical settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)950-963
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Arid Land
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • deconvolution method
  • DEM data
  • river length
  • S-hydrograph method
  • Snyder method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Cite this