This paper presents a unified multi-scale model (UMSM) that we developed to simulate hydrological processes in an ecosystem containing both surface water and groundwater. The UMSM approach modifies the Navier–Stokes equation by adding a Darcy force term to formulate a single set of equations to describe fluid momentum and uses a generalized equation to describe fluid mass balance. The advantage of the approach is that the single set of the equations can describe hydrological processes in both surface water and groundwater where different models are traditionally required to simulate fluid flow. This feature of the UMSM significantly facilitates modelling of hydrological processes in ecosystems, especially at locations where soil/sediment may be frequently inundated and drained in response to precipitation, regional hydrological and climate changes. In this paper, the UMSM was benchmarked using WASH123D, a model commonly used for simulating coupled surface water and groundwater flow. Disney Wilderness Preserve (DWP) site at the Kissimmee, Florida, where active field monitoring and measurements are ongoing to understand hydrological and biogeochemical processes, was then used as an example to illustrate the UMSM modelling approach. The simulations results demonstrated that the DWP site is subject to the frequent changes in soil saturation, the geometry and volume of surface water bodies, and groundwater and surface water exchange. All the hydrological phenomena in surface water and groundwater components including inundation and draining, river bank flow, groundwater table change, soil saturation, hydrological interactions between groundwater and surface water, and the migration of surface water and groundwater interfaces can be simultaneously simulated using the UMSM. Overall, the UMSM offers a cross-scale approach that is particularly suitable to simulate coupled surface and ground waterflow in ecosystems with strong surface water and groundwater interactions.