U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 02-455

By A.T. Rutledge


This manual describes the use of the PULSE computer program for analysis of streamflow records. The specific instructions included here and the computer files that accompany this manual require streamflow data in a format that can be obtained from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) sites on the World Wide Web. The program is compiled to run on a personal computer that uses a Microsoft Windows-based operating system. This manual provides instructions for use of Microsoft Excel for plotting hydrographs, though users may choose to use other software for plotting.

The program calculates a hydrograph of ground-water discharge to a stream on the basis of user-specified recharge to the water table. Two different formulations allow recharge to be treated as instantaneous quantities or as gradual rates. The process of ground-water evapotranspiration can be approximated as a negative gradual recharge.

The PULSE program is intended for analyzing a ground-water-flow system that is characterized by diffuse areal recharge to the water table and ground-water discharge to a stream. Program use can be appropriate if all or most ground water in the basin discharges to the stream and if a streamflow-gaging station at the downstream end of the basin measures all or most outflow. Ground-water pumpage and the regulation and diversion of streamflow should be negligible. More information about the application of the method is included in Rutledge, 1997, pages 2-3.

The program can be used in conjunction with ground-water-level data. If a well is open to the surficial aquifer, observed water-level rises in the well can be used to evaluate the timing of recharge. Such evaluation is most effective if there are numerous water-level observation wells in the basin. Water levels in observation wells can also be used to evaluate the rate of ground-water discharge estimated by the PULSE program. The results of such an evaluation may be problematic, however, because the relation between ground-water level and ground-water discharge may not be unique.

Departures from the linear model of recession occur because of areal variation in transmissivity and because of the longitudinal component of ground-water flow (parallel to the stream). If the PULSE program is used to estimate ground-water recharge, the recession index should not be obtained from periods of extreme low flow, and the calibration process should include plotting flow on the linear scale in addition to plotting flow on the log scale.




Mathematical model

Preparing to use the PULSE program

Obtaining streamflow data files

The “SCREEN” program

The “PREP” program

Drainage area

The recession index

Running the programs

Using PULSE to generate a hydrograph of ground-water discharge

Running PREP and PULSE to generate a hydrograph of ground-water discharge for a streamflow hydrograph

Supplemental information about the PULSE program

Ground-water-level records and the time of recharge

The relation between ground-water level and ground-water discharge

Departures from the linear model of recession


For more information write to:

Ground-Water Specialist

U.S. Geological Survey

433 National Center

Reston, VA 20192


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