Model calibration remains a critical step in numerical modelling. After many attempts to automate this task in water-related domains, questions about the actual need for calibrating physics-based models are still open. This paper proposes a framework for good model calibration practice for end-users of 1D hydraulic simulation codes. This framework includes a formalisation of objects used in 1D river hydraulics along with a generic conceptual description of the model calibration process. It was implemented within a knowledge-based system integrating a simulation code and expert knowledge about model calibration. A prototype calibration support system was then built up with a specific simulation code solving subcritical unsteady flow equations for fixed-bed rivers. The framework for model calibration is composed of three independent levels related, respectively, to the generic task, to the application domain and to the simulation code itself. The first two knowledge levels can thus easily be reused to build calibration support systems for other application domains, like 2D hydrodynamics or physics-based rainfall–runoff modelling.