• Ethiopia;
  • parameters;
  • residuals;
  • runoff simulations

[1] Land cover changes can have significant impacts on hydrological regime. The objective of this study was to detect possible hydrological changes of four watersheds in the Blue Nile Basin using a model-based method for hydrological change detection. The four watersheds, Birr, Upper-Didesa, Gilgel Abbay, and Koga range in size from 260 to 1800 km2. The changes were assessed based on model parameters, model residuals, and in the overall function of the watersheds in transferring rainfall into runoff. The entire time series (1960–2004) was divided into three periods based on political and land management policy changes. A conceptual rainfall-runoff model, the HBV (Hydrologiska Byråns Vattenbalansavdelning) model, was used for the analysis, and suitable parameter sets for each period were found based on a Monte Carlo approach. The values of six out of nine parameters changed significantly between the periods. Model residuals also showed significant changes between the three periods in three of the four watersheds. On the other hand, the overall functioning of the watersheds in processing rainfall to runoff changed little. So even though the individual parameters and model residuals were changing, the integrated functioning of the watersheds showed minimal changes. This study demonstrated the value of using different approaches for detecting hydrological change and highlighted the sensitivity of the outcome to the applied modeling and statistical methods.