Characteristics of perennial and intermittent headwater streams were documented in the mountaintop removal coal-mining region of southern West Virginia in 200001. The perennial-flow origin points were identified in autumn during low base-flow conditions. The intermittent-flow origin points were identified in late winter and early spring during high base-flow conditions.
Results of this investigation indicate that the median drainage area upstream of the origin of intermittent flow was 14.5 acres, and varied by an absolute median of 3.4 acres between the late winter measurements of 2000 and early spring measurements of 2001. Median drainage area in the northeastern part of the study unit was generally larger (20.4 acres), with a lower median basin slope (322 feet per mile) than the southwestern part of the study unit (12.9 acres and 465 feet per mile, respectively). Both of the seasons preceding the annual intermittent flow visits were much drier than normal. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection reports that the median size of permitted valley fills in southern West Virginia is 12.0 acres, which is comparable to the median drainage area upstream of the ephemeralintermittent flow point (14.5 acres). The maximum size of permitted fills (480 acres), however, is more than 10 times the observed maximum drainage area upstream of the ephemeral-intermittent flow point (45.3 acres), although a single valley fill may cover more than one drainage area.
The median drainage area upstream of the origin of perennial flow was 40.8 acres, and varied by an absolute median of 18.0 acres between two annual autumn measurements. Only basins underlain with mostly sandstone bedrock produced perennial flow. Perennial points in the northeast part of the study unit had a larger median drainage area (70.0 acres) and a smaller median basin slope (416 feet per mile) than perennial points in the southwest part of the study unit (35.5 acres and 567 feet per mile, respectively). Some streams were totally dry for one or both of the annual October visits. Both of the seasons preceding the October visits had near normal to higher than normal precipitation. These dry streams were adjacent to perennial streams draining similarly sized areas, suggesting that local conditions at a firstorder- stream scale determine whether or not there will be perennial flow.
Headwater-flow rates varied little from year to year, but there was some variation between late winter and early spring and autumn. Flow rates at intermittent points of flow origin ranged from 0.001 to 0.032 cubic feet per second, with a median of 0.017 cubic feet per second. Flow rates at perennial points of flow origin ranged from 0.001 to 0.14 cubic feet per second, with a median of 0.003 cubic feet per second.
Purpose and Scope
Description of Study Area
Definitions of Perennial, Intermittent, and Ephemeral Streams
Study Design and Data Collection
Characteristics of Headwater Streams
Drainage Areas with Intermittent Flow
Drainage Areas with Perennial Flow
Temporal Variability in Intermittent and Perennial Drainage Areas
Summary and Conclusions
For additional information write to:
Chief, West Virginia District
U.S. Geological Survey
11 Dunbar Street
Charleston, WV 250301
Copies of this report can be purchased from:
U.S. Geological Survey
Branch of Information Services
Denver, CO 80225-0286
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