Fractal analysis of urban catchments and their representation in semi-distributed models: Imperviousness and sewer system

Auguste Gires*, Ioulia Tchiguirinskaia, Daniel Schertzer, Susana Ochoa-Rodriguez, Patrick Willems, Abdellah Ichiba, Li Pen Wang, Rui Pina, Johan Van Assel, G. Bruni, Damian Murla Tuyls, Marie Claire Ten Veldhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


Fractal analysis relies on scale invariance and the concept of fractal dimension enables one to characterize and quantify the space filled by a geometrical set exhibiting complex and tortuous patterns. Fractal tools have been widely used in hydrology but seldom in the specific context of urban hydrology. In this paper, fractal tools are used to analyse surface and sewer data from 10 urban or peri-urban catchments located in five European countries. The aim was to characterize urban catchment properties accounting for the complexity and inhomogeneity typical of urban water systems. Sewer system density and imperviousness (roads or buildings), represented in rasterized maps of 2m × 2m pixels, were analysed to quantify their fractal dimension, characteristic of scaling invariance. The results showed that both sewer density and imperviousness exhibit scale-invariant features and can be characterized with the help of fractal dimensions ranging from 1.6 to 2, depending on the catchment. In a given area consistent results were found for the two geometrical features, yielding a robust and innovative way of quantifying the level of urbanization. The representation of imperviousness in operational semi-distributed hydrological models for these catchments was also investigated by computing fractal dimensions of the geometrical sets made up of the sub-catchments with coefficients of imperviousness greater than a range of thresholds. It enables one to quantify how well spatial structures of imperviousness were represented in the urban hydrological models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2361-2375
Number of pages15
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2017


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