Assessment of soil erosion risk in a semi-arid climate watershed using SWAT model: case of Tata basin, South-East of Morocco

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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Increased sedimentation is the main problem that affects dam efficiency by reducing storage capacity. Planning for dam construction and maintenance requires design strategies that heavily depend on integrated basin models, properly identifying principal sediment origins within the watershed and qualifying the sediment production rate. In this research work, the physically-based watershed SWAT model, defined as the Soil and Water Assessment Tool, was used to estimate the rate of sediment production for future dams in the Tata basin, located in southeast Morocco. The model was calibrated and tested for uncertainty by the employment of the algorithm Sequential Uncertainty Fitting-2. The outputs were used for assessing critical sediment source areas. Calibration and validation of the model were performed by monthly data. The values for Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency coefficient, Percent bias coefficient and determination coefficient (R2), respectively, during the calibration period 1990–1998 (0.96, −13% and 0.96) and the validation period 1999–2006 (0.77, + 11% and 0.93) indicate the accordance with the results obtained for the measured flow and the simulated flow values. The annual sediment yield of the Tata basin extends from 0 to 11 t/ha/y with a mean of 2.3 t/ha/y. The spatial distribution of these sediments varies from upstream to downstream. The downstream basin generated more sediment to the river per unit area, though it was less than the total amount of the basin for the upstream area. This variation is influenced by the increased downstream surface runoff and also by other characteristics of the basin such as slope and lithology. The low erosion places correspond to areas with lithological formations that are more resistant to erosion.

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Applied Water Science