In western Victoria, Australia the water table and lake level in the Glenelg-Hopkins catchment have been declining for the last 15 years, and this is attributed to either the low rainfall over this time and/or a substantial change in land use. Stream flow modelling was carried out using monthly empirical water balance model (modified tanh function together with double mass curve analysis), on 37 stream gauges to assess whether the impact of land use change could be detected by a change in the magnitude of the resulting runoff. The empirical hydrological model was able to distinguish impact of land use change on stream flow from the climatic variables.
There were substantial decreases in stream flow in the 1970s-1980s, probably related to increasing livestock densities in the region. Furthermore, the methodology can be a powerful tool to monitor and evaluate the possible impacts of future land use changes. It can be concluded that the use of such empirical hydrological modelling greatly improves the ability to analyse the impact of land use on catchment runoff. The model is a practical tool that can be readily used for identifying and quantifying the effect of landuse changes on catchment for water resource decision-making, which could be hardly possible using the time consuming, data hungry and expensive physical process models available.