Bulk Density Optimization to Determine Subsurface Hydraulic Properties in Rocky Mountain Catchments Using the GEOtop Model

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Integrated watershed models can be used to calculate streamflow generation in snow‐dominated mountainous catchments. Parameterization of water flow is often complicated by the lack of information on subsurface hydraulic properties. In this study, bulk density optimization was used to determine hydraulic parameters for the upper and lower regolith in the GEOtop model. The methodology was tested in two small catchments in the Dry Creek Watershed in Idaho and the Libby Creek Watershed in Wyoming. Modelling efficiencies for profile‐average soil–water content for the two catchments were between 0.52 and 0.64. Modelling efficiencies for stream discharge (cumulative stream discharge) were 0.45 (0.91) and 0.54 (0.94) for the Idaho and Wyoming catchments, respectively. The calculated hydraulic properties suggest that lateral flow across the upper–lower regolith interface is an important driver of streamflow in both the Idaho and Wyoming watersheds. The overall calibration procedure is computationally efficient because only two bulk density values are optimized. The two‐parameter calibration procedure was complicated by uncertainty in hydraulic conductivity anisotropy. Different upper regolith hydraulic conductivity anisotropy factors had to be tested in order to describe streamflow in both catchments.