USGS

Low-Flow Characteristics of Streams in Virginia

U.S. Geological Survey, Water Supply Paper 2374

by Donald C. Hayes

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Abstract

Streamflow data were collected and low-flow characteristics computed for 715 gaged sites in Virginia Annual minimum average 7-consecutive-day flows range from 0 to 2,195 cubic feet per second for a 2-year recurrence interval and from 0 to 1,423 cubic feet per second for a 10-year recurrence interval. Drainage areas range from 0.17 to 7,320 square miles. Existing and discontinued gaged sites are separated into three types: long-term continuous-record sites, short-term continuous-record sites, and partial-record sites. Low-flow characteristics for long-term continuous-record sites are determined from frequency curves of annual minimum average 7-consecutive-day flows . Low-flow characteristics for short-term continuous-record sites are estimated by relating daily mean base-flow discharge values at a short-term site to concurrent daily mean discharge values at nearby long-term continuous-record sites having similar basin characteristics . Low-flow characteristics for partial-record sites are estimated by relating base-flow measurements to daily mean discharge values at long-term continuous-record sites.

Information from the continuous-record sites and partial-record sites in Virginia are used to develop two techniques for estimating low-flow characteristics at ungaged sites. A flow-routing method is developed to estimate low-flow values at ungaged sites on gaged streams. Regional regression equations are developed for estimating low-flow values at ungaged sites on ungaged streams.

The flow-routing method consists of transferring low-flow characteristics from a gaged site, either upstream or downstream, to a desired ungaged site. A simple drainage-area proration is used to transfer values when there are no major tributaries between the gaged and ungaged sites. Standard errors of estimate for108 test sites are 19 percent of the mean for estimates of low-flow characteristics having a 2-year recurrence interval and 52 percent of the mean for estimates of low-flow characteristics having a 10-year recurrence interval . A more complex transfer method must be used when major tributaries enter the stream between the gaged and ungaged sites. Twenty-four stream networks are analyzed, and predictions are made for 84 sites. Standard errors of estimate are 15 percent of the mean for estimates of low-flow characteristics having a 2-year recurrence interval and 22 percent of the mean for estimates of low-flow characteristics having a 10-year recurrence interval.

Regional regression equations were developed for estimating low-flow values at ungaged sites on ungaged streams. The State was divided into eight regions on the basis of physiography and geographic grouping of the residuals computed in regression analyses . Basin characteristics that were significant in the regression analysis were drainage area, rock type, and strip-mined area. Standard errors of prediction range from 60 to139 percent for estimates of low-flow characteristics having a 2-year recurrence interval and 90 percent to 172 percent for estimates of low-flow characteristics having a 10-year recurrence interval.

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