Low-dimensional modeling of hillslope subsurface flow: Relationship between rainfall, recharge, and unsaturated storage dynamics

A.G.J. Hilberts, P.A.A. Troch, C. Paniconi, J. Boll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


We present a coupling between the one-dimensional Richards equation for vertical unsaturated flow and the one-dimensional hillslope-storage Boussinesq equation (HSB) for lateral saturated flow along complex hillslopes. Here the capillary fringe is included in the flow domain as an integral part of the Boussinesq aquifer. The coupling allows quantitative investigation of the role of unsaturated storage in the relationship between rainfall and recharge. The coupled model (HSB coupled) is compared to the original HSB model (HSB original) and a three-dimensional Richards equation (RE) based model (taken to be the benchmark) on a set of seven synthetic hillslopes, ranging from convergent to divergent. Using HSB original, the water tables are overestimated and the outflow rates are generally underestimated, and there is no delay between rainfall and recharge. The coupled model, however, shows a remarkably good match with the RE model in terms of outflow rates, and the delay between rainfall and recharge is captured well. We also see a clear improvement in the match to the water tables, even though the values are still overestimated for some hillslope shapes, in particular the convergent slopes. We show that for the hillslope configurations and scenarios examined in this paper it is possible to reproduce hydrographs and water table dynamics with a good degree of accuracy using a low-dimensional hydrological model.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberW03445
Number of pages14
JournalWater Resources Research
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • variable source areas
  • free-surface flow
  • art. no. 1241
  • capillary-fringe
  • complex hillslopes
  • boussinesq model
  • hydraulic conductivity
  • hydrologic processes
  • soil-moisture
  • sloping bed

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