The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the San Antonio River Authority, the Evergreen Underground Water Conservation District, and the Goliad County Groundwater Conservation District, configured, calibrated, and tested a watershed model for a study area consisting of about 2,150 square miles of the lower San Antonio River watershed in Bexar, Guadalupe, Wilson, Karnes, DeWitt, Goliad, Victoria, and Refugio Counties in south-central Texas. The model simulates streamflow, evapotranspiration (ET), and groundwater recharge using rainfall, potential ET, and upstream discharge data obtained from National Weather Service meteorological stations and USGS streamflow-gaging stations. Additional time-series inputs to the model include wastewater treatment-plant discharges, withdrawals for cropland irrigation, and estimated inflows from springs.
Model simulations of streamflow, ET, and groundwater recharge were done for 2000-2007. Because of the complexity of the study area, the lower San Antonio River watershed was divided into four subwatersheds; separate HSPF models were developed for each subwatershed. Simulation of the overall study area involved running simulations of the three upstream models, then running the downstream model. The surficial geology was simplified as nine contiguous water-budget zones to meet model computational limitations and also to define zones for which ET, recharge, and other water-budget information would be output by the model. The model was calibrated and tested using streamflow data from 10 streamflow-gaging stations; additionally, simulated ET was compared with measured ET from a meteorological station west of the study area. The model calibration is considered very good; streamflow volumes were calibrated to within 10 percent of measured streamflow volumes.
During 2000-2007, the estimated annual mean rainfall for the water-budget zones ranged from 33.7 to 38.5 inches per year; the estimated annual mean rainfall for the entire watershed was 34.3 inches. Using the HSPF model it was estimated that for 2000-2007, less than 10 percent of the annual mean rainfall on the study watershed exited the watershed as streamflow, whereas about 82 percent, or an average of 28.2 inches per year, exited the watershed as ET. Estimated annual mean groundwater recharge for the entire study area was 3.0 inches, or about 9 percent of annual mean rainfall. Estimated annual mean recharge was largest in water-budget zone 3, the zone where the Carrizo Sand outcrops. In water-budget zone 3, the estimated annual mean recharge was 5.1 inches or about 15 percent of annual mean rainfall. Estimated annual mean recharge was smallest in water-budget zone 6, about 1.1 inches or about 3 percent of annual mean rainfall. The Cibolo Creek subwatershed and the subwatershed of the San Antonio River upstream from Cibolo Creek had the largest and smallest basin yields, about 4.8 inches and 1.2 inches, respectively. Estimated annual ET and annual recharge generally increased with increasing annual rainfall. Also, ET was larger in zones 8 and 9, the most downstream zones in the watershed.
Model limitations include possible errors related to model conceptualization and parameter variability, lack of data to quantify certain model inputs, and measurement errors. Uncertainty regarding the degree to which available rainfall data represent actual rainfall is potentially the most serious source of measurement error.