Constraining water age dynamics in a south-eastern Australian catchment using an age-ranked storage and stable isotope approach

Alexander J.V. Buzacott*, Ype van der Velde, Claudia Keitel, R. Willem Vervoort

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Improving our knowledge of the travel times of water through catchments is critical for the management and protection of water resources and to improve our understanding of fundamental catchment behaviour. In this study we use the age-ranked storage framework StorAge Selection (SAS) to investigate travel times in the Corin catchment, a headwater catchment in the south-east of Australia covered by native Eucalyptus species. Few studies have applied the SAS framework globally and in energy-intensive areas where catchment losses are heavily in favour of evapotranspiration relative to streamflow. A combination of observed and modelled values of oxygen-18 (δ18O), the stable isotope in water, are used to constrain storage selection preferences of streamflow and evapotranspiration and the size of the catchment active storage. The highest performing parameter combinations that could reproduce δ18O in streamflow were dependent on a strong preference for young water in evapotranspiration, and a mixture of weak young and old water preference in streamflow. The mean travel time of streamflow over the study period 2007–2019, weighted by the flow rate, is limited to within a probable range of 2.81–9.77 years. The size of the active storage, a key parameter in the SAS framework, was poorly identified, and in combination with the isotopic inputs into the model, contributed to the uncertainty of the results. We discuss the implications of the results with respect to the study area, as well as within the context of SAS research globally and identify ways to improve the modelling process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4384-4403
Number of pages20
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number23
Early online date2 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2020


  • catchment hydrology
  • SAS
  • stable isotopes
  • StorAge Selection
  • travel-times


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