Although river water storage contributes to Total Terrestrial Water Storage (TWS) variations obtained from GRACE satellite gravimetry, it is unclear if computationally expensive river routing schemes are required when GRACE data is used for calibration and validation in global hydrological modeling studies. Here, we investigate the role of river water storage on calibration and validation of a parsimonious global hydrological model. In a multi-criteria calibration approach, the model is constrained against either GRACE TWS or TWS from which river water storage is removed. While we find that removing river water storage changes the TWS constraint regionally and globally, there are no significant implications for model calibration and the resulting simulations. However, adding modeled river water storage a-posteriori to calibrated TWS simulations improves model validation against seasonal GRACE TWS variations globally and regionally, especially in tropics and Northern low- and wetlands. While our findings justify the exclusion of explicit river routing for global model calibration, we find that the inclusion of river water storage is relevant for model evaluation.