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Global Hydrology


PCRaster GLOBal Water Balance model:version 2.0

Key documentation: Wada et al. (2014) (Hydrology and water Use), Wada et al. (2015) (water use),Van Beek et al. (2012) (water temperature), De Graaf et al (2015) (Global groundwater), Sutanudjaja et al. (2014) (full coupling PCR-GLOBWB-MODFLOW)

Download: PCR-GLOBWB 2.0 is available from the following public repository:

For example input and parameter files and configuration files (Rhine catchment) we refer to:


PCR-GLOBWB 2.0 is a grid-based global hydrology and water resources model developed at Utrecht University. It is a modular model coded in Python and PCRaster-Python routines. The computational grid covers all continents except Greenland and Antarctica. Currently two versions are available: one with cells of half degree in latitude and longitude (approximately 50×50 km at the equator) and one with cells sized 5 arcminutes (approximately 10 by 10 km at the equator). Time steps for hydrology and water use are one-day while internal time stepping for hydrodynamic river routing is variable. For each grid cell and each time step, PCR-GLOBWB 2.0 simulates moisture storage in two vertically stacked upper soil layers, as well as the water exchange between the soil, the atmosphere and the underlying groundwater reservoir. The exchange with the atmosphere comprises of precipitation, evaporation from soils, open water, snow and soils and plant transpiration, while the model also simulates snow accumulation, snowmelt and glacier melt. Subgrid-variability of land use, soils and topography is included. PCR-GLOBWB includes improved subgrid schemes for runoff-infiltration partitioning, interflow, groundwater recharge and baseflow, as well as routing of water over the terrain. Runoff generated by snow and glacier melt, surface runoff, interflow and baseflow is routed across the river network to the ocean or endorheic lakes and wetlands.  Routing can be either simple accumulation, simplified dynamic routing using a method of characteristics or kinematic wave routing. In case the kinematic wave routing is used, it is also possible to use a (simplified) floodplain inundation scheme and to simulate surface water temperature. PCR-GLOBWB 2.0 includes over 6000 manmade reservoirs (from the GranD database) that are progressively introduced in time and a simple reservoir operation scheme dependent on each reservoir’s purpose. Human water use is fully integrated with the hydrological model at time step. Thus at each time step: 1) water demand is estimated for irrigation, livestock, industry and households; 2) these demands are translated into actual abstractions from groundwater and surface water (rivers, ;lakes and reservoirs) subject to availability of these resources and maximum groundwater pumping capacity in place; 3) consumptive water use and return flows are calculated per sector. As an option PCR-GLOBWB 2.0 can be partially or fully coupled to a two-layer global groundwater model (available at half degree or 5 arcminutes) based on MODFLOW. Recent work also includes coupling PCR-GLOBWB 2.0 to DFLOW-FM a flexible mesh version of DELFT3D that can be used to solve the 2D shallow water equations for detailed inundation studies.

Figure 1. Schematic of PCR-GLOBWB cell with its functionality

NEW: a nice movie with output from PCR-GLOWB 2.0 : 30 years of simulation at 5 minute resolution and daily time step. Shown are monthly averages of 1) upper left: soil moisture (0-30 cm); upper right: discharge (m3/s), lower left: snow cover fraction; lower right: : soil moisture (0-30 cm). This movie was rendered at the eScienceCenter in the project eWaterCycle.

Figure 2. Discharge from the amazone at 0.5 degree and 5 minute resolution