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U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5085

Prepared in cooperation with the City and County of Honolulu Department of Environmental Services

Sources of Suspended Sediment in the Waikele Watershed, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi

By Scot K. Izuka

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (13.7 MB)Abstract

Data from streamflow/sediment gages and measurements of changes in channel-bed sediment storage were gathered between October 1, 2007, and September 30, 2010, to assess the sources of suspended sediment in the Waikele watershed, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. Streamflow from the watershed averaged 33 cubic feet per second during the study period, with interannual variations corresponding with variations in the frequency and magnitude of storm-flow peaks. Average streamflow during the study period was lower than the long-term average, but the study period included a storm on December 11, 2008, that caused record-high streamflows in parts of the watershed.

Suspended-sediment yield from the Waikele watershed during the study period averaged 82,500 tons per year, which is 2.7 times higher than the long-term average. More than 90 percent of the yield during the study period was discharged during the December 11, 2008, storm. The study-period results are consistent with long-term records that show that the vast majority of suspended-sediment transport occurs during a few large storms. Results of this study also show that all but a small percentage of the suspended-sediment yield came from hillslopes. Only a small fraction of bed sediments is fine enough to be transported as suspended load; most bed sediments in the watershed are coarse. Silt and clay constitute less than 3 percent of the bed-sediment volume on average. Some larger clasts, however, can disintegrate during transport and contribute to the suspended load downstream.

During the study period, suspended-sediment yield from the urbanized Mililani subbasin averaged 25 tons per year per square mile (tons/yr/mi2), which was much smaller than the yield from any other subbasin; these results indicate that urban land use yields much less sediment than other land uses. The wet, forested Kīpapa subbasin had an average normalized hillslope suspended-sediment yield of 386 tons/yr/mi2; the average yield for forested areas in the watershed may be lower. Suspended-sediment yield from agricultural land use in the watershed is estimated to range between 5,590 and 6,440 tons/yr/mi2 during the study period; the long-term average is estimated to be 2,070 to 2,390 tons/yr/mi2. Of the three land uses considered, agriculture had by far the highest normalized suspended-sediment yield during this study—about an order of magnitude higher than forests and two orders of magnitude higher than urban areas.

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Center Director, Pacific Islands Water Science Center
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Honolulu, HI 96813

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Suggested citation:

Izuka, S.K., 2012, Sources of suspended sediment in the Waikele watershed, Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5085, 28 p. (Available at


Executive Summary







Summary and Conclusions

References Cited


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