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Data Series 412

U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
Data Series 412

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Abstract

The perennial or intermittent status of a stream has bearing on many regulatory requirements. Because of changing technologies over time, cartographic representation of perennial/intermittent status of streams on U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps is not always accurate and (or) consistent from one map sheet to another. Idaho Administrative Code defines an intermittent stream as one having a 7-day, 2-year low flow (7Q2) less than 0.1 cubic feet per second. To establish consistency with the Idaho Administrative Code, the USGS developed regional regression equations for Idaho streams for several low-flow statistics, including 7Q2. Using these regression equations, the 7Q2 streamflow may be estimated for naturally flowing streams anywhere in Idaho to help determine perennial/intermittent status of streams. Using these equations in conjunction with a Geographic Information System (GIS) technique known as weighted flow accumulation allows for an automated and continuous estimation of 7Q2 streamflow at all points along a stream, which in turn can be used to determine if a stream is intermittent or perennial according to the Idaho Administrative Code operational definition.

The selected regression equations were applied to create continuous grids of 7Q2 estimates for the eight low-flow regression regions of Idaho. By applying the 0.1 ft3/s criterion, the perennial streams have been estimated in each low-flow region. Uncertainty in the estimates is shown by identifying a “transitional” zone, corresponding to flow estimates of 0.1 ft3/s plus and minus one standard error.

Considerable additional uncertainty exists in the model of perennial streams presented in this report. The regression models provide overall estimates based on general trends within each regression region. These models do not include local factors such as a large spring or a losing reach that may greatly affect flows at any given point. Site-specific flow data, assuming a sufficient period of record, generally would be considered to represent flow conditions better at a given site than flow estimates based on regionalized regression models. The geospatial datasets of modeled perennial streams are considered a first-cut estimate, and should not be construed to override site-specific flow data.

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