Three methods of fitting straight lines to data are described and their purposes are discussed and contrasted in terms of their applicability in various water resources contexts. The three methods are ordinary least squares (OLS), least normal squares (LNS), and the line of organic correlation (OC). In all three methods the parameters are based on moment statistics of the data. When estimation of an individual value is the objective, OLS is the most appropriate. When estimation of many values is the objective and one wants the set of estimates to have the appropriate variance, then OC is most appropriate. When one wishes to describe the relationship between two variables and measurement error is unimportant, then OC is most appropriate. Where the error is important in descriptive problems or in calibration problems, then structural analysis techniques may be most appropriate. Finally, if the problem is one of describing some geographic trajectory, then LNS is most appropriate.
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Methods of Fitting a Straight Line to Data: Examples in Water Resources