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Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5206

Prepared in cooperation with the Virginia Transportation Research Council

Regional Curves of Bankfull Channel Geometry for Non-Urban Streams in the Piedmont Physiographic Province, Virginia

By R. Russell Lotspeich

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Natural-channel design involves constructing a stream channel with the dimensions, slope, and plan-view pattern that would be expected to transport water and sediment and yet maintain habitat and aesthetics consistent with unimpaired stream segments, or reaches. Regression relations for bankfull stream characteristics based on drainage area, referred to as "regional curves," are used in natural stream channel design to verify field determinations of bankfull discharge and stream channel characteristics. One-variable, ordinary least-squares regressions relating bankfull discharge, bankfull cross-sectional area, bankfull width, bankfull mean depth, and bankfull slope to drainage area were developed on the basis of data collected at 17 streamflow-gaging stations in rural areas with less than 20 percent urban land cover within the basin area (non-urban areas) of the Piedmont Physiographic Province in Virginia. These regional curves can be used to estimate the bankfull discharge and bankfull channel geometry when the drainage area of a watershed is known.

Data collected included bankfull cross-sectional geometry, flood-plain geometry, and longitudinal profile data. In addition, particle-size distributions of streambed material were determined, and data on basin characteristics were compiled for each reach. Field data were analyzed to determine bankfull cross-sectional area, bankfull width, bankfull mean depth, bankfull discharge, bankfull channel slope, and D50 and D84 particle sizes at each site. The bankfull geometry from the 17 sites surveyed during this study represents the average of two riffle cross sections for each site. Regional curves developed for the 17 sites had coefficient of determination (R2) values of 0.950 for bankfull cross-sectional area, 0.913 for bankfull width, 0.915 for bankfull mean depth, 0.949 for bankfull discharge, and 0.497 for bankfull channel slope.

The regional curves represent conditions for streams with defined channels and bankfull features in the Piedmont Physiographic Province in Virginia with drainage areas ranging from 0.29 to 111 square miles. All sites included in the development of the regional curves were located on streams with current or historical U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations. These curves can be used to verify bankfull features identified in the field and bankfull stage for ungaged streams in non-urban areas.

First posted November 9, 2009

For additional information contact:
USGS Virginia Water Science Center
1730 East Parham Road
Richmond, VA 23228

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Suggested citation:

Lotspeich, R.R., 2009, Regional curves of bankfull channel geometry for non-urban streams in the Piedmont Physiographic Province, Virginia: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5206, 51 p.




Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

Development of Piedmont Bankfull Regional Channel Geometry Curves

Site Selection

Identification of Bankfull Stage

Basin Characteristics

Analysis of Channel Data

Piedmont Regional Curves


Comparison of Mid-Atlantic Piedmont Regional Curves



References Cited


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