Magnitude and frequency of floods in small drainage basins in Idaho

Water-Resources Investigations Report 73-7
By: , and 



A method is presented in this report for determining magnitude and frequency of floods on streams with drainage areas between 0.5 and 200 square miles. The method relates basin characteristics, including drainage area, percentage of forest cover, percentage of water area, latitude, and longitude, with peak flow characteristics.

Regression equations for each of eight regions are presented for determination of QIQ/ the peak discharge, which, on the average, will be exceeded once in 10 years. Peak flows, Q25 and Q 50 , can then be estimated from Q25/Q10 and Q-50/Q-10 ratios developed for each region. Nomographs are included which solve the equations for basins between 1 and 50 square miles.

The regional regression equations were developed using multiple regression techniques. Annual peaks for 303 sites were analyzed in the study. These included all records on unregulated streams with drainage areas less than about 500 square miles with 10 years or more of record or which could readily be extended to 10 years on the basis of nearby streams. The log-Pearson Type III method as modified and a digital computer were employed to estimate magnitude and frequency of floods for each of the 303 gaged sites. A large number of physical and climatic basin characteristics were determined for each of the gaged sites. The multiple regression method was then applied to determine the equations relating the floodflows and the most significant basin characteristics. For convenience of the users, several equations were simplified and some complex characteristics were deleted at the sacrifice of some increase in the standard error. Standard errors of estimate and many other statistical data were computed in the analysis process and are available in the Boise district office files. The analysis showed that QIQ was the best defined and most practical index flood for determination of the Q25 and 0,50 flood estimates.

Regression equations are not developed because of poor definition for areas which total about 20,000 square miles, most of which are in southern Idaho. These areas are described in the report to prevent use of regression equations where they do not apply. They include urbanized areas, streams affected by regulation or diversion by works of man, unforested areas, streams with gaining or losing reaches, streams draining alluvial valleys and the Snake Plain, intense thunderstorm areas, and scattered areas where records indicate recurring floods which depart from the regional equations. Maximum flows of record and basin locations are summarized in tables and maps.

The analysis indicates deficiencies in data exist. To improve knowledge regarding flood characteristics in poorly defined areas, the following data-collection programs are recommended. Gages should be operated on a few selected small streams for an extended period to define floods at long recurrence intervals. Crest-stage gages should be operated in representative basins in urbanized areas, newly developed irrigated areas and grasslands, and in unforested areas. Unusual floods should continue to be measured at miscellaneous sites on regulated streams and in intense thunderstorm-prone areas. The relationship between channel geometry and floodflow characteristics should be investigated as an alternative or supplement to operation of gaging stations. Documentation of historic flood data from newspapers and other sources would improve the basic flood-data base.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Magnitude and frequency of floods in small drainage basins in Idaho
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 73-7
DOI 10.3133/wri737
Year Published 1973
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Description Report: iv, 61 p.; 3 Plates: 22.54 x 31.64 inches or smaller
Country United States
State Idaho
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