Technical note: Hydrology modelling R packages - A unified analysis of models and practicalities from a user perspective

Paul C. Astagneau*, Guillaume Thirel, Olivier Delaigue, Joseph H.A. Guillaume, Juraj Parajka, Claudia C. Brauer, Alberto Viglione, Wouter Buytaert, Keith J. Beven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Following the rise of R as a scientific programming language, the increasing requirement for more transferable research and the growth of data availability in hydrology, R packages containing hydrological models are becoming more and more available as an open-source resource to hydrologists. Corresponding to the core of the hydrological studies workflow, their value is increasingly meaningful regarding the reliability of methods and results. Despite package and model distinctiveness, no study has ever provided a comparison of R packages for conceptual rainfall-runoff modelling from a user perspective by contrasting their philosophy, model characteristics and ease of use. We have selected eight packages based on our ability to consistently run their models on simple hydrology modelling examples. We have uniformly analysed the exact structure of seven of the hydrological models integrated into these R packages in terms of conceptual storages and fluxes, spatial discretisation, data requirements and output provided. The analysis showed that very different modelling choices are associated with these packages, which emphasises various hydrological concepts. These specificities are not always sufficiently well explained by the package documentation. Therefore a synthesis of the package functionalities was performed from a user perspective. This synthesis helps to inform the selection of which packages could/should be used depending on the problem at hand. In this regard, the technical features, documentation, R implementations and computational times were investigated. Moreover, by providing a framework for package comparison, this study is a step forward towards supporting more transferable and reusable methods and results for hydrological modelling in R.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3937-3973
Number of pages37
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2021


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