Traveltime and gains and losses within a stream are important basic characteristics of streamflow. The lower Purgatoire River flows more than 160 river miles from Trinidad to the Arkansas River near Las Animas. A better knowledge of streamflow traveltime and streamflow gains and losses along the lower Purgatoire River would enable more informed management decisions about the availability of water supplies for irrigation use in southeastern Colorado. In 1994-95, the U.S.\x11Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Purgatoire River Water Conservancy District and the Arkansas River Compact Administration, evaluated streamflow traveltime and estimated streamflow gains and losses using historical surface-water records. Traveltime analyses were used along the lower Purgatoire River to determine when streamflows would arrive at selected downstream sites. The substantial effects of diversions for irrigation and unmeasured return flows in the most upstream reach of the river prevented the tracking of streamflow through reach\x111. Therefore, the estimation of streamflow traveltime for the 60.6 miles of river downstream from Trinidad could not be made.Hourly streamflow data from 1990 through 1994 were used to estimate traveltimes of more than 30 streamflow events for about 100 miles of the lower Purgatoire River. In the middle reach of the river, the traveltime of streamflow for the 40.1\x11miles ranged from about 11 to about 47\x11hours, and in the lower reach of the river, traveltime for the 58.5 miles ranged from about 6 to about 61 hours.Traveltime in the river reaches generally increased as streamflow decreased, but also varied for a specific streamflow in both reaches. Streamflow gains and losses were estimated using daily streamflow data at the upstream and downstream sites, available tributary inflow data, and daily diversion data. Differences between surface-water inflows and surface-water outflows in a reach determined the quantity of water gained or lost. In the most upstream reach of the river near Trinidad, difficulties in establishing streamflow traveltimes prevented the estimation of streamflow gains or losses. From 1984 through 1992, more than 2,900 daily estimates of streamflow gains or losses were made for the last 100\x11miles of the lower Purgatoire River that indicated daily gains and losses in streamflow were common during all four seasons of the year. Although some large daily streamflow gains and losses were computed, most daily estimates indicated small gains and losses in streamflow. The daily median streamflow gain or loss for the middle reach of the river was close to zero during every season, whereas median values for the lower most reach of the river indicated a daily gain in streamflow during every season.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Evaluation of streamflow traveltime and streamflow gains and losses along the lower Purgatoire River, southeastern Colorado, 1984-92
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey :
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