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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5175

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Method for Estimating Potential Wetland Extent by Utilizing Streamflow Statistics and Flood-Inundation Mapping Techniques: Pilot Study for Land Along the Wabash River Near Terre Haute, Indiana

By Moon H. Kim1, Christian T. Ritz2, and Donald V. Arvin1

1U.S. Geological Survey, Water Science Center, Indianapolis, Indiana.
2U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Indianapolis, Indiana.
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Potential wetland extents were estimated for a 14-mile reach of the Wabash River near Terre Haute, Indiana. This pilot study was completed by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The study showed that potential wetland extents can be estimated by analyzing streamflow statistics with the available streamgage data, calculating the approximate water-surface elevation along the river, and generating maps by use of flood-inundation mapping techniques.

Planning successful restorations for Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) easements requires a determination of areas that show evidence of being in a zone prone to sustained or frequent flooding. Zone determinations of this type are used by WRP planners to define the actively inundated area and make decisions on restoration-practice installation. According to WRP planning guidelines, a site needs to show evidence of being in an “inundation zone” that is prone to sustained or frequent flooding for a period of 7 consecutive days at least once every 2 years on average in order to meet the planning criteria for determining a wetland for a restoration in agricultural land. By calculating the annual highest 7-consecutive-day mean discharge with a 2-year recurrence interval (7MQ2) at a streamgage on the basis of available streamflow data, one can determine the water-surface elevation corresponding to the calculated flow that defines the estimated inundation zone along the river.

By using the estimated water-surface elevation (“inundation elevation”) along the river, an approximate extent of potential wetland for a restoration in agricultural land can be mapped. As part of the pilot study, a set of maps representing the estimated potential wetland extents was generated in a geographic information system (GIS) application by combining (1) a digital water-surface plane representing the surface of inundation elevation that sloped in the downstream direction of flow and (2) land-surface elevation data. These map products from the pilot study will aid the NRCS and its partners with the onsite inundation-zone verification in agricultural land for a potential restoration and will assist in determining at what elevation to plant hardwood trees for increased survivability on ground above frequently flooded terraces.

First posted September 26, 2012

For additional information contact:
Director, Indiana Water Science Center
5957 Lakeside Blvd.
Indianapolis, IN 46278

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Suggested citation:

Kim, M.H., Ritz, C.T., and Arvin, D.V., 2012, Method for estimating potential wetland extent by utilizing streamflow statistics and flood-inundation mapping techniques—Pilot study for land along the Wabash River near Terre Haute, Indiana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5175, 15 p., 1 app., available only at





Utility of the Methods for Future Studies


References Cited


Appendix 1

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