Magnitude and Frequency of Floods on Nontidal Streams in Delaware

Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5146




Reliable estimates of the magnitude and frequency of annual peak flows are required for the economical and safe design of transportation and water-conveyance structures. This report, done in cooperation with the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS), presents methods for estimating the magnitude and frequency of floods on nontidal streams in Delaware at locations where streamgaging stations monitor streamflow continuously and at ungaged sites. Methods are presented for estimating the magnitude of floods for return frequencies ranging from 2 through 500 years. These methods are applicable to watersheds exhibiting a full range of urban development conditions. The report also describes StreamStats, a web application that makes it easy to obtain flood-frequency estimates for user-selected locations on Delaware streams. Flood-frequency estimates for ungaged sites are obtained through a process known as regionalization, using statistical regression analysis, where information determined for a group of streamgaging stations within a region forms the basis for estimates for ungaged sites within the region. One hundred and sixteen streamgaging stations in and near Delaware with at least 10 years of non-regulated annual peak-flow data available were used in the regional analysis. Estimates for gaged sites are obtained by combining the station peak-flow statistics (mean, standard deviation, and skew) and peak-flow estimates with regional estimates of skew and flood-frequency magnitudes. Example flood-frequency estimate calculations using the methods presented in the report are given for: (1) ungaged sites, (2) gaged locations, (3) sites upstream or downstream from a gaged location, and (4) sites between gaged locations. Regional regression equations applicable to ungaged sites in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain Physiographic Provinces of Delaware are presented. The equations incorporate drainage area, forest cover, impervious area, basin storage, housing density, soil type A, and mean basin slope as explanatory variables, and have average standard errors of prediction ranging from 28 to 72 percent. Additional regression equations that incorporate drainage area and housing density as explanatory variables are presented for use in defining the effects of urbanization on peak-flow estimates throughout Delaware for the 2-year through 500-year recurrence intervals, along with suggestions for their appropriate use in predicting development-affected peak flows. Additional topics associated with the analyses performed during the study are also discussed, including: (1) the availability and description of more than 30 basin and climatic characteristics considered during the development of the regional regression equations; (2) the treatment of increasing trends in the annual peak-flow series identified at 18 gaged sites, with respect to their relations with maximum 24-hour precipitation and housing density, and their use in the regional analysis; (3) calculation of the 90-percent confidence interval associated with peak-flow estimates from the regional regression equations; and (4) a comparison of flood-frequency estimates at gages used in a previous study, highlighting the effects of various improved analytical techniques.

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USGS Numbered Series
Magnitude and Frequency of Floods on Nontidal Streams in Delaware
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Scientific Investigations Report
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v, 57 p.