Storage as a Metric of Catchment Comparison

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The volume of water stored within a catchment, and its partitioning among groundwater, soil moisture, snowpack, vegetation, and surface water are the variables that ultimately characterize the state of the hydrologic system. Accordingly, storage may provide useful metrics for catchment comparison. Unfortunately, measuring and predicting the amount of water present in a catchment is seldom done; tracking the dynamics of these stores is even rarer. Storage moderates fluxes and exerts critical controls on a wide range of hydrologic and biologic functions of a catchment. While understanding runoff generation and other processes by which catchments release water will always be central to hydrologic science, it is equally essential to understand how catchments retain water. We have initiated a catchment comparison exercise to begin assessing the value of viewing catchments from the storage perspective. The exercise is based on existing data from five watersheds, no common experimental design, and no integrated modelling efforts. Rather, storage was estimated independently for each site. This briefing presents some initial results of the exercise, poses questions about the definitions and importance of storage and the storage perspective, and suggests future directions for ongoing activities.