An analytic solution of the stochastic storage problem applicable to soil water

Water Resources Research



The accumulation of soil water during rainfall events and the subsequent depletion of soil water by evaporation between storms can be described, to first order, by simple accounting models. When the alternating supplies (precipitation) and demands (potential evaporation) are viewed as random variables, it follows that soil-water storage, evaporation, and runoff are also random variables. If the forcing (supply and demand) processes are stationary for a sufficiently long period of time, an asymptotic regime should eventually be reached where the probability distribution functions of storage, evaporation, and runoff are stationary and uniquely determined by the distribution functions of the forcing. Under the assumptions that the potential evaporation rate is constant, storm arrivals are Poisson-distributed, rainfall is instantaneous, and storm depth follows an exponential distribution, it is possible to derive the asymptotic distributions of storage, evaporation, and runoff analytically for a simple balance model. A particular result is that the fraction of rainfall converted to runoff is given by (1 - R−1)/(eα(1−R−1)  R−1), in which R is the ratio of mean potential evaporation to mean rainfall and a is the ratio of soil water-holding capacity to mean storm depth. The problem considered here is analogous to the well-known problem of storage in a reservoir behind a dam, for which the present work offers a new solution for reservoirs of finite capacity. A simple application of the results of this analysis suggests that random, intraseasonal fluctuations of precipitation cannot by themselves explain the observed dependence of the annual water balance on annual totals of precipitation and potential evaporation.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title An analytic solution of the stochastic storage problem applicable to soil water
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1029/93WR01934
Volume 29
Issue 11
Year Published 1993
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Description 4 p.
First page 3755
Last page 3758