Effects of Reservoirs on Flood Discharges in the Kansas and Missouri River Basins - 1993

U.S. Geological Survey, Circular 1120-E

by Charles A. Perry

This report is available as a pdf below


During spring and summer 1993, record flooding inundated much of the upper Mississippi River Basin. The magnitude of the damages-in terms of property, disrupted business, and personal trauma was unmatched by any other flood disaster in United States history . Property damage alone is expected to exceed $10 billion . Damaged highways and submerged roads disrupted overland transportation throughout the flooded region. The Mississippi and the Missouri Rivers were closed to navigation before, during, and after the flooding. Millions of acres of productive farmland remained under water for weeks during the growing season. Rills and gullies in many tilled fields are the result of the severe erosion that occurred throughout the Midwestern United States farmbelt . The hydrologic effects of extended rainfall throughout the upper Midwestern United States were severe and widespread. The banks and channels of many rivers were severely eroded, and sediment was deposited over large areas of the basin's flood plain. Record flows submerged many areas that had not been affected by previous floods . Industrial and agricultural areas were inundated, which caused concern about the transport and fate of industrial chemicals, sewage effluent, and agricultural chemicals in the floodwaters . The extent and duration of the flooding caused numerous levees to fail. One failed levee on the Raccoon River in Des Moines, Iowa, led to flooding of the city's water treatment plant. As a result, the city was without drinking water for 19 days.

As the Nation's principal water-science agency, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is in a unique position to provide an immediate assessment of some of the hydrological effects of the 1993 flood. The USGS maintains a hydrologic data network and conducts extensive water-resources investigations nation wide. Long-term data from this network and information on local and regional hydrology provide the basis for identifying and documenting the effects of the flooding. During the flood, the USGS provided continuous streamflow and related information to the National Weather Service (NWS), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and many State and local agencies as part of its role to provide basic information on the Nation's surface- and ground-water resources at thousands of locations across the United States . The NWS has used the data in forecasting floods and issuing flood warnings. The data have been used by the Corps of Engineers to operate water diversions, dams, locks, and levees. The FEMA and many State and local emergency management agencies have used USGS hydrologic data and NWS forecasts as part of the basis of their local flood-response activities. In addition, USGS hydrologists are conducting a series of investigations to document the effects of the flooding and to improve understanding of the related processes. The major initial findings from these studies will be reported in this Circular series as results become available.

U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1120, Floods in the Upper Mississippi River Basin, 1993, consists of individually published chapters that will document the effects of the 1993 flooding. The series includes data and findings on the magnitude and frequency of peak discharges; precipitation ; water-quality characteristics, including nutrients and man-made contaminants ; transport of sediment; assessment of sediment deposited on flood plains ; effects of inundation on ground-water quality ; flood-discharge volume; effects of reservoir storage on flood peaks; stream-channel scour at selected bridges ; extent of floodplain inundation; and documentation of geomorphologic changes.

Table of Contents

PDF Files

FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button