The Yellowstone River is very important in a variety of ways to the residents of southeastern Montana; however, it is especially vulnerable to spilled contaminants. In 2004, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Montana Department of Environmental Quality, initiated a study to develop a computer program to rapidly estimate instream travel times and concentrations of a potential contaminant in the Yellowstone River using regression equations developed in 1999 by the U.S. Geological Survey. The purpose of this report is to describe these equations and their limitations, describe the development of a computer program to apply the equations to the Yellowstone River, and provide detailed instructions on how to use the program. This program is available online at [http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/sir2006-5057/includes/ytot.xls].
The regression equations provide estimates of instream travel times and concentrations in rivers where little or no contaminant-transport data are available. Equations were developed and presented for the most probable flow velocity and the maximum probable flow velocity. These velocity estimates can then be used to calculate instream travel times and concentrations of a potential contaminant.
The computer program was developed so estimation equations for instream travel times and concentrations can be solved quickly for sites along the Yellowstone River between Corwin Springs and Sidney, Montana. The basic types of data needed to run the program are spill data, streamflow data, and data for locations of interest along the Yellowstone River. Data output from the program includes spill location, river mileage at specified locations, instantaneous discharge, mean-annual discharge, drainage area, and channel slope. Travel times and concentrations are provided for estimates of the most probable velocity of the peak concentration and the maximum probable velocity of the peak concentration.
Verification of estimates of instream travel times and concentrations for the Yellowstone River requires information about the flow velocity throughout the 520 mi of river in the study area. Dye-tracer studies would provide the best data about flow velocities and would provide the best verification of instream travel times and concentrations estimated from this computer program; however, data from such studies does not currently (2006) exist and new studies would be expensive and time-consuming. An alternative approach used in this study for verification of instream travel times is based on the use of flood-wave velocities determined from recorded streamflow hydrographs at selected mainstem streamflow-gaging stations along the Yellowstone River. The ratios of flood-wave velocity to the most probable velocity for the base flow estimated from the computer program are within the accepted range of 2.5 to 4.0 and indicate that flow velocities estimated from the computer program are reasonable for the Yellowstone River. The ratios of flood-wave velocity to the maximum probable velocity are within a range of 1.9 to 2.8 and indicate that the maximum probable flow velocities estimated from the computer program, which corresponds to the shortest travel times and maximum probable concentrations, are conservative and reasonable for the Yellowstone River.
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USGS Numbered Series
A computer program for estimating instream travel times and concentrations of a potential contaminant in the Yellowstone River, Montana