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Updated Computations and Estimates of Streamflows Tributary to Carson Valley, Douglas County, Nevada, and Alpine County, California, 1990-2002

By Douglas K. Maurer, Sharon A. Watkins, and Robert L. Burrows

Report availability: Portable Document Format (PDF).


Rapid population growth in Carson Valley has caused concern over the continued availability of water resources to sustain future growth. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Douglas County, began a study to update estimates of water-budget components in Carson Valley for current climatic conditions. Data collected at 19 sites included 9 continuous records of tributary streamflows, 1 continuous record of outflow from the valley, and 408 measurements of 10 perennially flowing but ungaged drainages. These data were compiled and analyzed to provide updated computations and estimates of streamflows tributary to Carson Valley, 1990-2002.

Mean monthly and annual flows were computed from continuous records for the period 1990-2002 for five streams, and for the period available, 1990-97, for four streams. Daily mean flow from ungaged drainages was estimated using multi-variate regressions of individual discharge measurements against measured flow at selected continuous gages. From the estimated daily mean flows, monthly and annual mean flows were calculated from 1990 to 2002. These values were used to compute estimates of mean monthly and annual flows for the ungaged perennial drainages. Using the computed and estimated mean annual flows, annual unit-area runoff was computed for the perennial drainages, which ranged from 0.30 to 2.02 feet.

For the period 1990-2002, estimated inflow of perennial streams tributary to Carson Valley totaled about 25,900 acre-feet per year. Inflow computed from gaged perennial drainages totaled 10,300 acre-feet per year, and estimated inflow from ungaged perennial drainages totaled 15,600 acre-feet per year. The annual flow of perennial streams ranges from 4,210 acre-feet at Clear Creek to 450 acre-feet at Stutler Canyon Creek. Differences in unit-area runoff and in the seasonal timing of flow likely are caused by differences in geologic setting, altitude, slope, or aspect of the individual drainages.

The remaining drainages are ephemeral and supply inflow to the valley floor only during spring runoff in wet years or during large precipitation events. Annual unit-area runoff for the perennial drainages was used to estimate inflow from ephemeral drainages totaling 11,700 acre-feet per year.

The totaled estimate of perennial and ephemeral tributary inflows to Carson Valley is 37,600 acre-feet per year. Gaged perennial inflow is 27 percent of the total, ungaged perennial inflow is 42 percent, and ephemeral inflow is 31 percent. The estimate is from 50 to 60 percent greater than three previous estimates, one made for a larger area and similar to two other estimates made for larger areas. The combined uncertainty of the estimates totaled about 33 percent of the total inflow or about 12,000 acre-feet per year.

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