Many Federal, State, and local agencies use low-flow data to establish water-use policy and help determine the total maximum daily loads and effluent limits of point and nonpoint sources of contamination of surface water during periods of decreased streamflow. Low-flow magnitude and frequency are used often by water-supply planners, reservoir managers, and hydroelectric facilities to manage water availability for supply and power generation.
Low-flow statistics for eight selected U.S. Geological Survey streamgages in New York State were calculated for the period from 1976 through 2006 and for the entire period of continuous streamflow record. The 7-day, 2-year and 10-year low flows were computed and compared with those low flows published in the1979 U.S. Geological Survey report, Low-flow frequency analysis of streams in New York, Bulletin 74. Observed changes in low-flow frequency at each gage were then examined and compared to changes in precipitation and land use to determine whether a relation between similar patterns could be identified.
A statewide U.S. Geological Survey study has not been done to develop equations for estimating low flows on rural unregulated streams in New York. Currently (2010) only one regional study developed for parts of the lower Hudson River Basin in 1986 is available to assist in estimating low flows on rural streams with unregulated streamflow in New York. Low-flow statistics published in the 1979 report need to be updated by using additional data collected since 1976 to determine current low-flow conditions across New York State.
At-site low-flow statistics were updated for eight streamgages in New York by using continuous daily streamflow data through 2006 for the future development of a statewide research study. Selection of the eight streamgages used in this study identified a major deficiency in the number of available unregulated long-term U.S. Geological Survey streamgages needed for the development of regional low-flow equations in New York. A limited analysis of the changes in land use for the contributing drainage areas for each streamgage, changes in precipitation, and trends in the annual 7-day minimum flow also are presented. The 7-day, 2-year low flow showed increases of 14 to 35 percent and the 7-day 10-year low flow showed zero to 19 percent increases at rural streamgages with unregulated streamflows when statistics were computed by using data from 1976 through 2006 and compared with published data in Bulletin 74. When the entire period of record was used to compute low flow frequencies, the 7-day, 2-year low flows increased from about 6 to 15 percent whereas the 7-day 10-year low flows showed zero to 5 percent increases. Streamgages affected by urbanization and regulation for water supply showed the most significant changes in the 7-day, 2-year and 10-year low-flow frequencies. These streamgages are included to help identify the effects of urbanization and regulation on streamflow at these locations. The 7-day 10-year low flow increased by 65 percent at the U.S. Geological Survey streamgage Hackensack River at West Nyack, N.Y., and increased 120 percent at the U.S. Geological Survey streamgage Neversink River at Godeffroy, N.Y., when statistics were computed by using data from 1976 through 2006 and compared with the statistics for the regulated period computed in Bulletin 74.