Effective prediction of qualitative and quantitative indicators for runoff is quite essential in water resources planning and management. However, although several data-driven and model-driven forecasting approaches have been employed in the literature for streamflow forecasting, to our knowledge, the literature lacks a comprehensive comparison of well-known data-driven and model-driven forecasting techniques for runoff evaluation in terms of quality and quantity. This study filled this knowledge gap by comparing the accuracy of runoff, sediment, and nitrate forecasting using four robust data-driven techniques: artificial neural network (ANN), long short-term memory (LSTM), wavelet artificial neural network (WANN), and wavelet long short-term memory (WLSTM) models. These comparisons were performed in two main tiers: (1) Comparing the machine learning algorithms' results with the model-driven approach; In order to simulate the runoff, sediment, and nitrate loads, the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was employed, and (2) Comparing the machine learning algorithms with each other; The wavelet function was utilized in the ANN and LSTM algorithms. These comparisons were assessed based on the substantial statistical indices of coefficient of determination (R-Squared), Nash-Sutcliff efficiency coefficient (NSE), mean absolute error (MAE), and root mean square error (RMSE). Finally, to prove the applicability and efficiency of the proposed novel framework, it was successfully applied to Eagle Creek Watershed (ECW), Indiana, U.S. Results demonstrated that the data-driven algorithms significantly outperformed the model-driven models for both the calibration/training and validation/testing phases. Furthermore, it was found that the coupled ANN and LSTM models with wavelet function led to more accurate results than those without this function.
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