Methods for Adjusting U.S. Geological Survey Rural Regression Peak Discharges in an Urban Setting

Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5270




A study was conducted of 78 U.S. Geological Survey gaged streams that have been subjected to varying degrees of urbanization over the last three decades. Flood-frequency analysis coupled with nonlinear regression techniques were used to generate a set of equations for converting peak discharge estimates determined from rural regression equations to a set of peak discharge estimates that represent known urbanization. Specifically, urban regression equations for the 2-, 5-, 10-, 25-, 50-, 100-, and 500-year return periods were calibrated as a function of the corresponding rural peak discharge and the percentage of impervious area in a watershed. The results of this study indicate that two sets of equations, one set based on imperviousness and one set based on population density, performed well. Both sets of equations are dependent on rural peak discharges, a measure of development (average percentage of imperviousness or average population density), and a measure of homogeneity of development within a watershed. Average imperviousness was readily determined by using geographic information system methods and commonly available land-cover data. Similarly, average population density was easily determined from census data. Thus, a key advantage to the equations developed in this study is that they do not require field measurements of watershed characteristics as did the U.S. Geological Survey urban equations developed in an earlier investigation. During this study, the U.S. Geological Survey PeakFQ program was used as an integral tool in the calibration of all equations. The scarcity of historical land-use data, however, made exclusive use of flow records necessary for the 30-year period from 1970 to 2000. Such relatively short-duration streamflow time series required a nonstandard treatment of the historical data function of the PeakFQ program in comparison to published guidelines. Thus, the approach used during this investigation does not fully comply with the guidelines set forth in U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 17B, and modifications may be needed before it can be applied in practice.

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USGS Numbered Series
Methods for Adjusting U.S. Geological Survey Rural Regression Peak Discharges in an Urban Setting
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
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Geological Survey (U.S.)
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U.S. Geological Survey
vi, 55 p.
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