The main objective of this paper is to evaluate the impact of land cover resolution, in comparison with the digital elevation model (DEM) resolution, on hydrological modeling outputs. Three different basins in the various resolutions of DEM (12.5, 25, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 m) and land-use maps (250, 1,000 and 2,500 m) were collected in this study, and the hydrological modeling process was performed using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model. The soil type resolution was 1,000 m for all basins, and the runoff modeling was done based on the Soil Conservation Service Curve Number (SCS-CN) method. The final model outputs showed that the DEM cell size variations affect significantly the topographical characteristics of a catchment such as area, mean slope, river network and time to concentration which alter the flood modeling outputs especially in hilly watersheds (mean slope more than 15%) up to 15% for a DEM cell size of 1,000 m in comparison to 12.5 m. Also, the resolution and spatially distribution of land cover maps which directly specify SCS-CN values, can change the output simulated runoff results up to 49% for a land cover cell size of 2,500 m in comparison to 250 m. These results indicated that the quality of the land cover map is more important than the quality of DEM in hydrological modeling. Also, the results showed that for an identical land-use cell size, the differences between model outputs using DEM cell sizes less than 100 m were not very significant. Furthermore, in all models by increasing the DEM cell size, the simulated runoff depth was decreased.


  • The study attempts to show the impact of land-use resolution on hydrological model outputs.

  • The effect of the resolution of land-use data, CN estimating and uncertainties of SWAT outputs are discussed in this paper.

  • This paper shows that land-use land cover resolution is more important than DEM resolution in hydrological modeling.

  • This paper would be useful to improve hydrological model outputs.

  • This paper suggests the best DEM resolution for hydrological modeling.

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