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S. Saravanan*

Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee, India

*Corresponding author, email:


Water Resources Development and Management, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee, India

Stream flow in the Himalayan Rivers is generated from rainfall, and glacier melt. The
distribution of runoff produced from these sources is such that the stream flow may be observed
in these rivers throughout the year, i.e. they are perennial in nature. Snow and glacier melt runoff
contributes substantially to the annual flows of these rivers and its estimation is required for the
planning, development and management of the water resources of this region.

Water is the most abundant substance on earth, the principle constituent of all living
things, and the major force constantly shaping the earth. Hydrology may be broadly considered
to be the study of the life cycle of water. The most important section of the cycle is
transformation of rainfall into runoff. The relationship between rainfall and runoff is an
important issue in surface hydrology and usually represents a major challenge for hydrologists. It
quantifies the hydrologic response of a catchment in terms of surface runoff yield and properties
of flood waves. This information is necessary for the selection and design of the appropriate
water management and flood protection structures and measures. The transformation of rainfall
into runoff over a catchment is a complex hydrological phenomenon, as this process is highly
nonlinear, time-varying and spatially distributed. Many hydrologists devote themselves to
develop rainfall–runoff models to estimate runoff. The rainfall–runoff process, which involves
many mechanisms, is known as a highly complicated and nonlinear phenomenon. Difficulties
exist in the modeling of the rainfall–runoff process. on the complexities involved, these models
are categorized as empirical, black-box, conceptual or physically-based distributed models.
Thus, an accurate and easily-used rainfall–runoff model that can appropriately model the
rainfall–runoff process is of strong demand.

A new approach for designing the network structure in an artificial neural network
(ANN)-based rainfall-runoff model is presented. The Artificial Neural Network (ANN) is a
method of computation inspired by studies of the brain and nervous systems in biological
organisms. A neural network method is considered as robust tools for modelling many of
complex non-linear hydrologic processes. The method utilizes the statistical properties such as
cross-, auto- and partial-auto-correlation of the data series in identifying a unique input vector
that best represents the process for the basin, and a standard algorithm for training. The distinct
advantage of an ANN is that it learns the previously unknown relationship existing between the
input and the output data through a process of training, without a priori knowledge of the
catchment characteristics. The ANN is also described as a mathematical structure, which is
capable of representing the arbitrary complex nonlinear process relating the input and the output
of any system. Presently more and more researchers are utilizing ANNs because these models
possess desirable attributes of universal approximation, and the ability to learn from examples
without the need for explicit physics.

Models are generally classified as black-box models, conceptual models and physically
based models.

Black-box models, which are fully based on observational data and on the calibrated
input-output relationship without description of individual processes (examples: unit hydrograph,
empirical regression approaches, transfer function models, etc). Earlier these models are so
called as empirical equations, now with a new tool called ANN these models.

Conceptual models, wherein the basic processes (snowmelt, infiltration, evaporation, etc.)
are separated to some extent, but their algorithms are essentially calibrated input-output
relationships (the most famous among these models are Stanford Watershed Model, Hydrologic
Engineering Centre-1 Model, Hydrological Simulation Model).

Physically based models, which are based, as much as possible, on the mathematical-
physics equations of mass and energy transfer in the river basin and are intended to minimize the
need for calibration by using measurable watershed characteristics as the model parameters or
reliable relationships between these characteristics and the parameters (examples: Systeme
Hydrologique Europeen (SHE), Hydrological Cycle models of the Water Problems Institute of
RAS, Institute of Hydrology Distributed Model (IHDM)).

The accuracy of runoff prediction with the models of the first two types depends fully on
the quantity and quality of runoff measurements available for their calibration. That is, the black-
box models as well as conceptual models cannot be successfully used for runoff predictions in
Poorly Gauged Basins (PGBs). Conceptual watershed models are generally reported to be
reliable in forecasting the most important features of the hydrograph, such as the beginning of
the rising limb, the time and the height of the peak, and volume of flow [Sorooshian, 1983].
However, the implementation and calibration of such a model can typically present various
difficulties [Duan et al., 1992], requiring sophisticated mathematical tools [Sorooshian et al.,
1993], significant amounts of calibration data [Yapo et al., 1995], and some degree of expertise
and experience with the model.

Physically based models which are advanced version of the conceptual models involve
solution of a system of partial differential equation that represents our best understanding of the
flow processes within the catchment. For most of the problems, discretizing space and time-
space dimensions into discrete set of nodes seek a numerical solution. This implies that such
models work best when data on the physical characteristics of the catchment are available at the
grid scale. The kind of data required is rarely available. These models suffer from problems such
as identification, assimilability and uniqueness of parameter estimation (Jain and Prasad, 2003).