Low-Flow Characteristics of Streams from Wailua to Hanapēpē, Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i

Scientific Investigations Report 2020-5128
Prepared in cooperation with the State of Hawai‘i Commission on Water Resource Management



The purpose of this study is to characterize streamflow availability under natural (unregulated) low-flow conditions for streams in southeast Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i. The nine main study-area basins, from north to south, include Wailua River, Hanamā‘ulu, Nāwiliwili, Pūʻali, Hulēʻia, Waikomo, Lāwaʻi, and Wahiawa Streams, and Hanapēpē River. The results of this study can be used by water managers to develop technically sound instream-flow standards for the study-area streams.

Low-flow characteristics for natural streamflow conditions were represented by flow-duration discharges that are equaled or exceeded between 95 and 50 percent of the time. Short-term continuous-record stream-gaging stations that monitored low flows on Waiahi and right branch Lāwaʻi Streams were established to serve as potential index stations for partial-record sites in the study area. Continuous-record stream-gaging station on Hanapēpē River monitored natural flow during calendar year 2017 and the streamflow record during that period was used to estimate low-flow characteristics at the station. Partial-record sites were established on 3 main streams and 15 tributary streams, upstream from existing surface-water diversions. Low-flow characteristics were determined using historical and current streamflow data from continuous-record stream-gaging stations and miscellaneous sites, as well as additional data collected as part of this study. Low-flow-duration discharges for the following streams were estimated for the 59-year base period (water years 1961–2019) using two record-augmentation techniques: right branch ʻŌpaekaʻa Stream, North Fork Wailua River, north and south fork Waikoko Streams, ‘Ili‘ili‘ula Stream, north and south fork Hanamāʻulu Streams, Kamo‘oloa Stream, Pāohia Stream, Ku‘ia Stream, Lāwa‘i Stream, Wahiawa Stream, and Hanapēpē River. The 95-percent flow-duration discharges (Q95) ranged from 0.018 to 42 cubic feet per second (ft3/s). The 50-percent flow-duration discharges (Q50) ranged from 1.1 to 69 ft3/s. Upper-bound estimates of low-flow duration discharges at partial-record sites on south fork Hanamāʻulu, Hanamāʻulu tributary, ʻŌmaʻo, and Pōʻeleʻele Streams were estimated based on the highest discharges measured as part of this study during Q95 to Q50 flow conditions, which were 0.44, 0.40, 0.19, and 0.22 ft3/s, respectively. Measured discharges on Nāwiliwili, Pū‘ali, and left branch Wahiawa Streams do not correlate with data at any active long-term continuous-record stream-gaging stations (10 or more complete water years of natural-flow record) and therefore low-flow duration discharges could not be estimated.

This study also estimated streamflow gains and losses using seepage-run discharge measurements in eight of the nine study basins (Pūʻali Stream basin was excluded). A majority of the streams gained flow downstream from the uppermost diversions. Measured seepage-gain rates ranged between 0.03 and 24.3 ft3/s per mile of stream reach. Seepage gains are presumed to originate mainly from groundwater discharge in the Wailua River, Hanamā‘ulu Stream, Nāwiliwili Stream, Hulēʻia Stream, Lāwa‘i Stream, Wahiawa Stream, and Hanapēpē River basins. Under natural-flow conditions and flow conditions of the seepage runs, a majority of the study-area streams flow continuously from the mountains to the ocean. Where a stream discharges into a reservoir––Hanamā‘ulu and Wahiawa Streams––a dry reach may occur immediately downstream from the reservoir to the point of seepage gain in the stream.

Suggested Citation

Cheng, C.L., 2020, Low-flow characteristics of streams from Wailua to Hanapēpē, Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5128, 57 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20205128.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Description of the Study Area
  • Methods
  • Results and Discussion
  • Limitations of Approach
  • Suggestions for Future Work
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Low-flow characteristics of streams from Wailua to Hanapēpē, Kauaʻi, Hawaiʻi
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2020-5128
DOI 10.3133/sir20205128
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Pacific Islands Water Science Center
Description viii, 57 p.
Country United States
State Hawaii
Other Geospatial Kaua‘i
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details