Methods for Estimating the Magnitude and Frequency of Peak Discharges of Rural, Unregulated Streams in Virginia

U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4148

by James A. Bisese

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Methods are presented for estimating the peak discharges of rural, unregulated streams in Virginia. A Pearson Type III distribution is fitted to the logarithms of the unregulated annual peak-discharge records from 363 stream-gaging stations in Virginia to estimate the peak discharge at these stations for recurrence intervals of 2 to 500 years. Peak-discharge characteristics for 284 unregulated stations are divided into eight regions based on physiographic province, and regressed on basin characteristics, including drainage area, main channel length, main channel slope, mean basin elevation, percentage of forest cover, mean annual precipitation, and maximum rainfall intensity. Regression equations for each region are computed by use of the generalized least-squares method, which accounts for spatial and temporal correlation between nearby gaging stations. This regression technique weights the significance of each station to the regional equation based on the length of records collected at each cation, the correlation between annual peak discharges among the stations, and the standard deviation of the annual peak discharge for each station.

Drainage area proved to be the only significant explanatory variable in four regions, while other regions have as many as three significant variables. Standard errors of the regression equations range from 30 to 80 percent. Alternate equations using drainage area only are provided for the five regions with more than one significant explanatory variable.

Methods and sample computations are provided to estimate peak discharges at gaged and engaged sites in Virginia for recurrence intervals of 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, and 500 years, and to adjust the regression estimates for sites on gaged streams where nearby gaging-station records are available .

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