Wouter Knoben

Project: Towards methodical modelling: streamlining conceptual hydrological modelling options with a focus on hydrological process representation

Supervisors: Dr Ross Woods and Professor Jim Freer


Conceptual hydrologic models are computationally efficient, have low data requirements and are easy to rearrange into different configurations. This makes them useful tools for studies that analyse a large number of river basins, for which detailed data is not always available. An abundance of these models currently exists, with different model structures depending on intended purpose. A conceptual model tries to simulate certain hydrologic processes that the modeller has reason to believe are important for a given basin. Knowledge if which model structure is applicable to which catchment is however fragmented, there is no general overview of which hydrologic processes play dominant roles in which areas and no single formalized procedure exist to create an appropriate model structure for a catchment with given physical and climatic characteristics. Accurate and appropriate process representation is essential for studies that focus on changing catchment conditions, as a result of climate change or changes in land use within the catchment.

See Wouter’s Poster presented at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly 2016 in Vienna, Austria.


Wouter currently works as a PhD researcher at University of Bristol, in the Water and Environment group. His research interests include data analysis, hydrology, catchment modelling, model intercomparison and large-scale and large sample hydrology. His current research focuses on structuring the abundance of available conceptual hydrologic models and investigating how the different building blocks of each model relate to real-world processes. The next step is structuring these building blocks in a library that will assist modellers in choosing the appropriate building blocks for their catchment under consideration. Future research topics include investigating differences and similarities in dynamic behaviour for various models, applying the model component library to create models in a large-sample study, and investigating if and how an appropriate model structure for a given catchment can be predicted from catchment characteristics. This simultaneously provides information about which hydrologic processes are important in which areas.

Wouter’s academic career starts at the University of Twente, Netherlands. Here he completes a bachelor in Civil Engineering and a master in Water Engineering and Management. He alternates studying and extracurricular activities and serves on a variety of committees. He completes his bachelor’s thesis in cooperation with the Dutch engineering firm HKV Consultants and his master’s thesis in cooperation with the Polish Institute of Geophysics. He briefly works as a data management specialist in the food industry, before starting his current position at the University of Bristol.

Keywords: Hydrology, conceptual models, model structure uncertainty, automated model structure selection, classification, catchment characteristics