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Also known as
Model type Single
Model part of larger framework
Note on status model
Date note status model
Incorporated models or components:
Spatial dimensions 2D
Spatial extent Continental, Landscape-Scale, Regional-Scale, Watershed-Scale
Model domain Terrestrial, Hydrology
One-line model description The SPARROW Surface Water-Quality Model
Extended model description SPARROW (SPAtially Referenced Regressions On Watershed attributes) is a watershed modeling technique for relating water-quality measurements made at a network of monitoring stations to attributes of the watersheds containing the stations. The core of the model consists of a nonlinear regression equation describing the non-conservative transport of contaminants from point and diffuse sources on land to rivers and through the stream and river network. The model predicts contaminant flux, concentration, and yield in streams and has been used to evaluate alternative hypotheses about the important contaminant sources and watershed properties that control transport over large spatial scales.

biogeochemistry, water quality,

Name Richard Alexander
Type of contact Model developer
Institute / Organization USGS, NAWQA Hydrologic Systems Team
Postal address 1 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, MS 413
Postal address 2
Town / City Reston
Postal code 20192
State Virginia
Country United States
Email address
Phone 703-648-6869

Name Steve Preston
Type of contact Model developer
Institute / Organization
Postal address 1
Postal address 2
Town / City
Postal code
Country United States
Email address

Name Gregory Schwarz
Type of contact
Institute / Organization
Postal address 1
Postal address 2
Town / City
Postal code
Country United States
Email address

Name Richard Smith
Type of contact
Institute / Organization
Postal address 1
Postal address 2
Town / City
Postal code
Country United States
Email address

Supported platforms
Other platform
Programming language

Other program language SAS Macro Language, SAS IML
Code optimized Single Processor
Multiple processors implemented
Nr of distributed processors
Nr of shared processors
Start year development 1992
Does model development still take place? Yes
If above answer is no, provide end year model development
Code development status Active
When did you indicate the 'code development status'? 2020
Model availability As code
Source code availability
(Or provide future intension)
Through web repository
Source web address
Source csdms web address
Program license type Other
Program license type other NOT SURE
Memory requirements --
Typical run time --

Describe input parameters SPARROW modeling requires the integration of many types of geospatial data for use as explanatory variables which are considered as either constituent sources or delivery factors. Sources might include certain land types such as urban area, or known contaminant sources such as sewage treatment plants. Delivery terms can include any basin characteristic that may be associated with natural attenuation. For example, denitrification is often associated with certain soil characteristics and the spatial pattern of those soil characteristics is often related to that of constituent loads. In some cases delivery terms might also be associated with enhanced delivery. For example, high basin slope might cause more rapid flows which could increase the delivery of constituents. Delivery is also influenced by the water time of travel in streams, which can be estimated from published USGS time-of-travel studies (e.g., Reed and Stuckey, 2001).
Input format ASCII, Binary
Other input format
Describe output parameters SPARROW is designed to describe the spatial patterns in water quality and the factors that affect it. SPARROW models are developed using mass balance constraints to quantify the relation between stream constituent load (the mass of the constituent being transported by the stream) and the sources and losses of mass in watersheds. Thus the models are inherently designed to predict load (mass per time) for all stream reaches in the modeling region. However, the predictions of stream load can be modified to provide a variety of water-quality metrics that can support various types of assessments.

The SPARROW prediction metrics include constituent yields, concentrations, and source contributions to stream loads:

  • Constituent yields
  • Constituent concentrations
  • Source contributions to stream loads
Output format Binary
Other output format
Pre-processing software needed? No
Describe pre-processing software
Post-processing software needed? No
Describe post-processing software
Visualization software needed? No
If above answer is yes
Other visualization software

Describe processes represented by the model --
Describe key physical parameters and equations --
Describe length scale and resolution constraints --
Describe time scale and resolution constraints --
Describe any numerical limitations and issues --

Describe available calibration data sets
Upload calibration data sets if available:
Describe available test data sets
Upload test data sets if available:
Describe ideal data for testing

Do you have current or future plans for collaborating with other researchers? --
Is there a manual available? Yes
Upload manual if available:
Model website if any
Model forum / discussion board --
Comments This form is filled out by Albert Kettner, based on the SPARROW website

This part will be filled out by CSDMS staff

OpenMI compliant No but possible
BMI compliant No but possible
WMT component No but possible
PyMT component
Is this a data component
Can be coupled with:
Model info
Richard Alexander
Preston, Schwarz, Smith
Nr. of publications: 35
Total citations: 3508
h-index: 21
m-quotient: 0.78
Qrcode SPARROW.png
Link to this page




Nr. of publications: 35
Total citations: 3508
h-index: 21
m-quotient: 0.78

Featured publication(s)YearModel describedType of ReferenceCitations
Smith, Richard A.; Schwarz, Gregory E.; Alexander, Richard B.; 1997. Regional interpretation of water-quality monitoring data. Water Resources Research, 33, 2781–2798. 10.1029/97WR02171
(View/edit entry)
Model overview 666
Alexander, Richard B.; Smith, Richard A.; Schwarz, Gregory E.; Boyer, Elizabeth W.; Nolan, Jacqueline V.; Brakebill, John W.; 2008. Differences in Phosphorus and Nitrogen Delivery to The Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi River Basin. Environmental Science & Technology, 42, 822–830. 10.1021/es0716103
(View/edit entry)
Model overview 776
See more publications of SPARROW



Input Files

Output Files