A physically based flow-routing model using Hydrological Simulation Program-FORTRAN (HSPF) was constructed for modeling streamflow in the Carson River at daily time intervals as part of the Truckee-Carson Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Daily streamflow data for water years 1978-92 for the mainstem river, tributaries, and irrigation ditches from the East Fork Carson River near Markleeville and West Fork Carson River at Woodfords down to the mainstem Carson River at Fort Churchill upstream from Lahontan Reservoir were obtained from several agencies and were compiled into a comprehensive data base. No previous physically based flow-routing model of the Carson River has incorporated multi-agency streamflow data into a single data base and simulated flow at a daily time interval. Where streamflow data were unavailable or incomplete, hydrologic techniques were used to estimate some flows. For modeling purposes, the Carson River was divided into six segments, which correspond to those used in the Alpine Decree that governs water rights along the river. Hydraulic characteristics were defined for 48 individual stream reaches based on cross-sectional survey data obtained from field surveys and previous studies. Simulation results from the model were compared with available observed and estimated streamflow data. Model testing demonstrated that hydraulic characteristics of the Carson River are adequately represented in the models for a range of flow regimes. Differences between simulated and observed streamflow result mostly from inadequate data characterizing inflow and outflow from the river. Because irrigation return flows are largely unknown, irrigation return flow percentages were used as a calibration parameter to minimize differences between observed and simulated streamflows. Observed and simulated streamflow were compared for daily periods for the full modeled length of the Carson River and for two major subreaches modeled with more detailed input data. Hydrographs and statistics presented in this report describe these differences. A sensitivity analysis of four estimated components of the hydrologic system evaluated which components were significant in the model. Estimated ungaged tributary streamflow is not a significant component of the model during low runoff, but is significant during high runoff. The sensitivity analysis indicates that changes in the estimated irrigation diversion and estimated return flow creates a noticeable change in the statistics. The modeling for this study is preliminary. Results of the model are constrained by current availability and accuracy of observed hydrologic data. Several inflows and outflows of the Carson River are not described by time-series data and therefore are not represented in the model.
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USGS Numbered Series
Progress report on daily flow-routing simulation for the Carson River, California and Nevada
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