Richard Dallison, a PhD researcher in our Bangor team, attended a training course on the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) in Vienna last week. The course was organised by, and hosted at, the Institute of Hydraulics and Rural Water Management at BOKU University, with researchers from across Europe attending. Being led by Professor Raghavan Srinivasan, co-developer of the SWAT model, the course was an excellent opportunity to learn the theory, application and implementation of the model from a world expert. Richard plans to use the SWAT model in order to assess how climate change will affect the availability of water for supply by water service providers in the future, as well as the energy implications of any additional treatment that may be needed due to changes in water quality.
The SWAT model is a public domain model first established in 1992 which has since been jointly developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service and Texas A&M AgriLife Research. SWAT is a comprehensive, physically based, small watershed to river basin-scale model; it simulates the quality and quantity of surface water at a daily time step. The model is used to predict the environmental impact of land use, land management practices, and climate change. Over 1,000 academic research papers utilising SWAT have now been published on catchments across the globe, making it the most widely used hydrological model in the world.
The four-day course covered both basic and advanced content on the model. Starting with the theory and background of SWAT, the model was then implemented with example data through QGIS (mapping software), for which SWAT has a plugin. Once the model had been successfully run, participants had the opportunity to put the model in to practice with their own data, and along with it the unparalleled chance to question Professor Srinivasan about their specific projects.
However, the covering of advanced content relating to uncertainty analysis, calibration, and validation of the model was where the most value was found in the training for Richard, him saying, “the advanced sessions gave a fantastic opportunity to practise the most difficult aspect of creating a reliable accurate model, from which you can trust the output”. Richard added, “having access to the arguably the world’s leading expert on the SWAT model was a phenomenal opportunity which I am unlikely to get again, so I made sure to ask as many question about the model and my project as possible!”
Thanks must go to the organisers of this extremely valuable course; Professor Raghavan Srinivasan who ran the course; and our funders, the European Regional Development Fund, Interreg Ireland-Wales Programme 2014-2020.