Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5073

Prepared in cooperation with the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District

Estimation of the Magnitude and Frequency of Floods in Urban Basins in Missouri

By Rodney E. Southard

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (4.3 MB)


Streamgage flood-frequency analyses were done for 35 streamgages on urban streams in and adjacent to Missouri for estimation of the magnitude and frequency of floods in urban areas of Missouri. A log-Pearson Type-III distribution was fitted to the annual series of peak flow data retrieved from the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Information System. For this report, the flood frequency estimates are expressed in terms of percent annual exceedance probabilities of 50, 20, 10, 4, 2, 1, and 0.2. Of the 35 streamgages, 30 are located in Missouri. The remaining five non-Missouri streamgages were added to the dataset to improve the range and applicability of the regression analyses from the streamgage frequency analyses.

Ordinary least-squares was used to determine the best set of independent variables for the regression equations. Basin characteristics selected for independent variables into the ordinary least-squares regression analyses were based on theoretical relation to flood flows, literature review of possible basin characteristics, and the ability to measure the basin characteristics using digital datasets and geographic information system technology. Results of the ordinary least-squares were evaluated on the basis of Mallow's Cp statistic, the adjusted coefficient of determination, and the statistical significance of the independent variables. The independent variables of drainage area and percent impervious area were determined to be statistically significant and readily determined from existing digital datasets. The drainage area variable was computed using the best elevation data available, either from a statewide 10-meter grid or high-resolution elevation data from urban areas. The impervious area variable was computed from the National Land Cover Dataset 2001 impervious area dataset. The National Land Cover Dataset 2001 impervious area data for each basin was compared to historical imagery and 7.5-minute topographic maps to verify the national dataset represented the urbanization of the basin at the time streamgage data were collected. Eight streamgages had less urbanization during the period of time streamflow data were collected than was shown on the 2001 dataset. The impervious area values for these eight urban basins were adjusted downward as much as 23 percent to account for the additional urbanization since the streamflow data were collected.

Weighted least-squares regression techniques were used to determine the final regression equations for the statewide urban flood-frequency equations. Weighted least-squares techniques improve regression equations by adjusting for different and varying lengths in streamflow records. The final flood-frequency equations for the 50-, 20-, 10-, 4-, 2-, 1-, and 0.2-percent annual exceedance probability floods for Missouri provide a technique for estimating peak flows on urban streams at gaged and ungaged sites. The applicability of the equations is limited by the range in basin characteristics used to develop the regression equations. The range in drainage area is 0.28 to 189 square miles; range in impervious area is 2.3 to 46.0 percent.

Seven of the 35 selected streamgages were used to compare the results of the existing rural and urban equations to the urban equations presented in this report for the 1-percent annual exceedance probability. Results of the comparison indicate that the estimated peak flows for the urban equation in this report ranged from 3 to 52 percent higher than the results from the rural equations. Comparing the estimated urban peak flows from this report to the existing urban equation developed in 1986 indicated the range was 255 percent lower to 10 percent higher. The overall comparison between the current (2010) and 1986 urban equations indicates a reduction in estimated peak flow values for the 1-percent annual exceedance probability flood.

First posted August 6, 2010

For additional information contact:
Director, USGS Missouri Water Science Center
1400 Independence Road, MS 100
Rolla, MO 65401
(573) 308–3667

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Southard, R.E., 2010, Estimating the magnitude and frequency of floods in urban basins in Missouri: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5073, 27 p.




Data Development

Estimation Of The Magnitude And Frequency Of Floods


Selected References

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: GS Pubs Web Contact
Page Last Modified: Thursday, 10-Jan-2013 19:13:49 EST