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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5232

Prepared in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Computing Daily Mean Streamflow at Ungaged Locations in Iowa by using the Flow Anywhere and Flow Duration Curve Transfer Statistical Methods

By S. Mike Linhart, Jon F. Nania, Curtis L. Sanders, Jr., and Stacey A. Archfield

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (7.55 MB)Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) maintains approximately 148 real-time streamgages in Iowa for which daily mean streamflow information is available, but daily mean streamflow data commonly are needed at locations where no streamgages are present. Therefore, the USGS conducted a study as part of a larger project in cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to develop methods to estimate daily mean streamflow at locations in ungaged watersheds in Iowa by using two regression-based statistical methods. The regression equations for the statistical methods were developed from historical daily mean streamflow and basin characteristics from streamgages within the study area, which includes the entire State of Iowa and adjacent areas within a 50-mile buffer of Iowa in neighboring states. Results of this study can be used with other techniques to determine the best method for application in Iowa and can be used to produce a Web-based geographic information system tool to compute streamflow estimates automatically.

The Flow Anywhere statistical method is a variation of the drainage-area-ratio method, which transfers same-day streamflow information from a reference streamgage to another location by using the daily mean streamflow at the reference streamgage and the drainage-area ratio of the two locations. The Flow Anywhere method modifies the drainage-area-ratio method in order to regionalize the equations for Iowa and determine the best reference streamgage from which to transfer same-day streamflow information to an ungaged location. Data used for the Flow Anywhere method were retrieved for 123 continuous-record streamgages located in Iowa and within a 50-mile buffer of Iowa. The final regression equations were computed by using either left-censored regression techniques with a low limit threshold set at 0.1 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) and the daily mean streamflow for the 15th day of every other month, or by using an ordinary-least-squares multiple linear regression method and the daily mean streamflow for the 15th day of every other month.

The Flow Duration Curve Transfer method was used to estimate unregulated daily mean streamflow from the physical and climatic characteristics of gaged basins. For the Flow Duration Curve Transfer method, daily mean streamflow quantiles at the ungaged site were estimated with the parameter-based regression model, which results in a continuous daily flow-duration curve (the relation between exceedance probability and streamflow for each day of observed streamflow) at the ungaged site. By the use of a reference streamgage, the Flow Duration Curve Transfer is converted to a time series. Data used in the Flow Duration Curve Transfer method were retrieved for 113 continuous-record streamgages in Iowa and within a 50-mile buffer of Iowa. The final statewide regression equations for Iowa were computed by using a weighted-least-squares multiple linear regression method and were computed for the 0.01-, 0.05-, 0.10-, 0.15-, 0.20-, 0.30-, 0.40-, 0.50-, 0.60-, 0.70-, 0.80-, 0.85-, 0.90-, and 0.95-exceedance probability statistics determined from the daily mean streamflow with a reporting limit set at 0.1 ft3/s. The final statewide regression equation for Iowa computed by using left-censored regression techniques was computed for the 0.99-exceedance probability statistic determined from the daily mean streamflow with a low limit threshold and a reporting limit set at 0.1 ft3/s.

For the Flow Anywhere method, results of the validation study conducted by using six streamgages show that differences between the root-mean-square error and the mean absolute error ranged from 1,016 to 138 ft3/s, with the larger value signifying a greater occurrence of outliers between observed and estimated streamflows. Root-mean-square-error values ranged from 1,690 to 237 ft3/s. Values of the percent root-mean-square error ranged from 115 percent to 26.2 percent. The logarithm (base 10) streamflow percent root-mean-square error ranged from 13.0 to 5.3 percent. Root-mean-square-error observations standard-deviation-ratio values ranged from 0.80 to 0.40. Percent-bias values ranged from 25.4 to 4.0 percent. Untransformed streamflow Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency values ranged from 0.84 to 0.35. The logarithm (base 10) streamflow Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency values ranged from 0.86 to 0.56. For the streamgage with the best agreement between observed and estimated streamflow, higher streamflows appear to be underestimated. For the streamgage with the worst agreement between observed and estimated streamflow, low flows appear to be overestimated whereas higher flows seem to be underestimated. Estimated cumulative streamflows for the period October 1, 2004, to September 30, 2009, are underestimated by -25.8 and -7.4 percent for the closest and poorest comparisons, respectively.

For the Flow Duration Curve Transfer method, results of the validation study conducted by using the same six streamgages show that differences between the root-mean-square error and the mean absolute error ranged from 437 to 93.9 ft3/s, with the larger value signifying a greater occurrence of outliers between observed and estimated streamflows. Root-mean-square-error values ranged from 906 to 169 ft3/s. Values of the percent root-mean-square-error ranged from 67.0 to 25.6 percent. The logarithm (base 10) streamflow percent root-mean-square error ranged from 12.5 to 4.4 percent. Root-mean-square-error observations standard-deviation-ratio values ranged from 0.79 to 0.40. Percent-bias values ranged from 22.7 to 0.94 percent. Untransformed streamflow Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency values ranged from 0.84 to 0.38. The logarithm (base 10) streamflow Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency values ranged from 0.89 to 0.48. For the streamgage with the closest agreement between observed and estimated streamflow, there is relatively good agreement between observed and estimated streamflows. For the streamgage with the poorest agreement between observed and estimated streamflow, streamflows appear to be substantially underestimated for much of the time period. Estimated cumulative streamflow for the period October 1, 2004, to September 30, 2009, are underestimated by -9.3 and -22.7 percent for the closest and poorest comparisons, respectively.

Revised December 10, 2012

First posted November 5, 2012

For additional information contact:
Director, Iowa Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
P.O. Box 1230
Iowa City, IA 52244
http://ia.water.usgs.gov

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Suggested citation:

Linhart, S.M., Nania, J.F., Sanders, C.L., Jr., and Archfield, S.A., 2012, Computing daily mean streamflow at ungaged locations in Iowa by using the Flow Anywhere and Flow Duration Curve Transfer statistical methods: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5232, 50 p.



Contents

Acknowledgments

Abstract

Introduction

Trend Analysis

Flow Anywhere Method Analytical Procedures

Flow Duration Curve Transfer Analytical Procedures

Summary

References Cited


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