The accuracy and precision of five tools used to measure stream water surface slope (WSS) were evaluated. Water surface slopes estimated in the field with a clinometer or from topographic maps used in conjunction with a map wheel or geographic information system (GIS) were significantly higher than WSS estimated in the field with a surveying level (biases of 34, 41, and 53%, respectively). Accuracy of WSS estimates obtained with an Abney level did not differ from surveying level estimates, but conclusions regarding the accuracy of Abney levels and clinometers were weakened by intratool variability. The surveying level estimated WSS most precisely (coefficient of variation [CV] = 0.26%), followed by the GIS (CV = 1.87%), map wheel (CV = 6.18%), Abney level (CV = 13.68%), and clinometer (CV = 21.57%). Estimates of WSS measured in the field with an Abney level and estimated for the same reaches with a GIS used in conjunction with l:24,000-scale topographic maps were significantly correlated (r = 0.86), but there was a tendency for the GIS to overestimate WSS. Detailed accounts of the methods used to measure WSS and recommendations regarding the measurement of WSS are provided.
Additional publication details
Accuracy and precision of stream reach water surface slopes estimated in the field and from maps