Climate change is one of the greatest challenges to humanity in this century, and most noticeable consequences are expected to be impacts on the water cycle – in particular the distribution and availability of water, which is fundamental for all life on Earth. In this context, it is essential to better understand where and when water is available and what processes influence variations in water storages. While estimates of the overall terrestrial water storage (TWS) variations are available from the GRACE satellites, these represent the vertically integrated signal over all water stored in ice, snow, soil moisture, groundwater and surface water bodies. Therefore, complementary observational data and hydrological models are still required to determine the partitioning of the measured signal among different water storages and to understand the underlying processes. However, the application of large-scale observational data is limited by their specific uncertainties and the incapacity to measure certain water fluxes and storages. Hydrological models, on the other hand, vary widely in their structure and process-representation, and rarely incorporate additional observational data to minimize uncertainties that arise from their simplified representation of the complex hydrologic cycle. In this context, this thesis aims to contribute to improving the understanding of global water storage variability by combining simple hydrological models with a variety of complementary Earth observation-based data. To this end, a model-data integration approach is developed, in which the parameters of a parsimonious hydrological model are calibrated against several observational constraints, inducing GRACE TWS, simultaneously, while taking into account each data’s specific strengths and uncertainties. This approach is used to investigate 3 specific aspects that are relevant for modelling and understanding the composition of large-scale TWS variations. The first study focusses on Northern latitudes, where snow and cold-region processes define the hydrological cycle. While the study confirms previous findings that seasonal dynamics of TWS are dominated by the cyclic accumulation and melt of snow, it reveals that inter-annual TWS variations on the contrary, are determined by variations in liquid water storages. Additionally, it is found to be important to consider the impact of compensatory effects of spatially heterogeneous hydrological variables when aggregating the contribution of different storage components over large areas. Hence, the determinants of TWS variations are scale-dependent and underlying driving mechanism cannot be simply transferred between spatial and temporal scales. These findings are supported by the second study for the global land areas beyond the Northern latitudes as well. This second study further identifies the considerable impact of how vegetation is represented in hydrological models on the partitioning of TWS variations. Using spatio-temporal varying fields of Earth observation-based data to parameterize vegetation activity not only significantly improves model performance, but also reduces parameter equifinality and process uncertainties. Moreover, the representation of vegetation drastically changes the contribution of different water storages to overall TWS variability, emphasizing the key role of vegetation for water allocation, especially between sub-surface and delayed water storages. However, the study also identifies parameter equifinality regarding the decay of sub-surface and delayed water storages by either evapotranspiration or runoff, and thus emphasizes the need for further constraints hereof. The third study focuses on the role of river water storage, in particular whether it is necessary to include computationally expensive river routing for model calibration and validation against the integrated GRACE TWS. The results suggest that river routing is not required for model calibration in such a global model-data integration approach, due to the larger influence other observational constraints, and the determinability of certain model parameters and associated processes are identified as issues of greater relevance. In contrast to model calibration, considering river water storage derived from routing schemes can already significantly improve modelled TWS compared to GRACE observations, and thus should be considered for model evaluation against GRACE data. Beyond these specific findings that contribute to improved understanding and modelling of large-scale TWS variations, this thesis demonstrates the potential of combining simple modeling approaches with diverse Earth observational data to improve model simulations, overcome inconsistencies of different observational data sets, and identify areas that require further research. These findings encourage future efforts to take advantage of the increasing number of diverse global observational data.