The Xinanjiang rainfall–runoff model has been successfully applied in many humid and sub-humid areas in China since 1973. The wide application is due to the simple model structure, the clear physical meaning of the parameters and the well-defined model calibration procedure. However, due to a data scarcity problem and short runoff concentration time, its applications to small drainage basins are difficult. Therefore, we investigate the model application in Lianghui, a small drainage basin of Zhejiang province in China. By using generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation (GLUE) methodology, the sensitivity of parameters of Xinanjiang model was investigated. The data clearly showed that equifinality phenomenon was evident in both water balance parameter calibration and runoff routing parameter calibration procedures. The results showed that K (evapotranspiration conversion coefficient), Cs (recession constant in channel system) and Sm (areal free water storage capacity of surface soil) are the most sensitive parameters for the water balance parameter calibration while Cs, Sm and Wm (mean area tension water capacity) are the most sensitive parameters for runoff routing parameter calibration. The conclusion is favourable for understanding parameters of Xinanjiang model in order to provide valuable scientific information for simulating hydrological processes in small drainage basins.

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