Using expert elicitation to quantify catchment water balances and their uncertainties

E. Sebok, J.C. Refsgaard, J.J. Warmink, S. Stisen, K.H. Jensen

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Expert elicitation with the participation of 35 experts was used to estimate a water balance for the nested Ahlergaarde and Holtum catchments in Western Denmark. Average annual values of precipitation, evapotranspiration, and surface runoff as well as subsurface outflow and recharge and their uncertainty were estimated in a multistep elicitation, where experts first gave their opinion on the probability distribution of their water balance component of interest, then the average annual values and uncertainty of water balance components and catchment-scale water balances were obtained by reaching consensus during group discussions. The obtained water balance errors for the 1055 km 2 Ahlergaarde catchment and 120 km 2 Holtum catchment were −5 and −62 mm/yr, respectively, with an uncertainty of 66 and 86 mm/yr, respectively. As an advantage of the expert elicitation, drawing on the intuitive experience and capabilities of experts to assess complex, site-specific problems, the contribution of independent sources of uncertainties to the total uncertainty was also evaluated similarly to the subsurface outflow component, which traditionally is estimated as the residual of the water balance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5111-5131
Number of pages21
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2016


  • catchment hydrology
  • expert elicitation
  • multistep elicitation
  • uncertainty analysis
  • water balance

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 2: Water Resources


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