Separation of base flow from streamflow using groundwater levels - illustrated for the Pang catchment (UK)

E. Peters, H.A.J. van Lanen

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19 Citations (Scopus)


A new filter to separate base flow from streamflow has developed that uses observed groundwater levels. To relate the base flow to the observed groundwater levels, a non-linear relation was used. This relation is suitable for unconfined aquifers with deep groundwater levels that do not respond to individual rainfall event. Because the filter was calibrated using total streamflow, an estimate of the direct runoff was also needed. The direct runoff was estimated from precipitation and potential evapotranspiration using a water balance model. The parameters for the base flow and direct runoff were estimated simultaneously using a Monte Carlo approach. Instead of one best solution, a range of satisfactory solutions was accepted. The filter was applied to data from two nested gauging stations in the Pang catchment (UK). Streamflow at the upstream station (Frilsham) is strongly dominated by base flow from the main aquifer, whereas at the downstream station (Pangbourne) a significant component of direct runoff also occurs. The filter appeared to provide satisfactory estimates at both stations. For Pangbourne, the rise of the base flow was strongly delayed compared with the rise of the streamflow. However, base flow exceeded streamflow on several occasions, especially during summer and autumn, which might be explained by evapotranspiration from riparian vegetation. To evaluate the results, the base flow was also estimated using three existing base-flow separation filters: an arithmetic filter (BFI), a digital filter (Boughton) and another filter based on groundwater levels (Kliner and Knek). Both the BFI and Boughton filters showed a much smaller difference in base flow between the two stations. The Kliner and Knek filter gave consistently lower estimates of the base flow. Differences and lack of clarity in the definition of base flow complicated the comparison between the filters. An advantage of the method introduced in this paper is the clear interpretation of the separated components. A disadvantage is the high data requirement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-936
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005


  • information-content
  • recession analysis
  • water
  • model
  • uncertainty
  • calibration
  • discharge
  • prediction
  • rainfall
  • recharge


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