Natural-channel design involves constructing a stream channel with the dimensions, slope, and plan-view pattern that would be expected to transport water and sediment and yet maintain habitat and aesthetics consistent with unimpaired reaches. The adequate description of channel geometry in unimpaired reaches often is an important component of natural-channel design projects and can be facilitated through empirical regression relations, or regional curves, relating bankfull geometry to drainage area. One-variable, ordinary least-squares regressions relating bankfull discharge, bankfull cross-sectional area, bankfull width, and bankfull mean depth to drainage area were developed based on data collected at 20 streamflow-gaging stations in Virginia and Maryland. These regional curves can be used to estimate the bankfull discharge and bankfull channel geometry when the drainage area of a watershed is known.
Field data collected at the site for each streamflow-gaging station included one longitudinal profile of bankfull features and channel-bed slope, two riffle cross-section surveys of channel geometry, cross-section pebble counts, and one site sketch with photographs of the channel and bankfull features. The top of the bank was the bankfull feature most indicative of bankfull geometry. Field data were analyzed to determine bankfull cross-sectional area, bankfull width, bankfull mean depth, and D50- and D84-particle sizes for the two riffles at each site. The bankfull geometry from the 8 sites surveyed during this study represents the average of two riffle cross sections for each site, and the bankfull geometry from the 12 Maryland sites represents one cross section for each site. Regional curves developed for the 20 sites had coefficient of determination (R2) values of 0.945, 0.890, 0.871, and 0.793 for bankfull cross-sectional area, width, mean depth, and discharge, respectively. The regional curves represent conditions for streams with defined channels and bankfull features in Virginia and Maryland with drainage areas ranging from 0.28 to 113 square miles. All sites included in the development of the regional curves were located on streams with U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations. These curves can be used to verify bankfull features identified in the field and bankfull stage for ungaged streams in non-urban areas.
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USGS Numbered Series
Bankfull Regional Curves for Streams in the Non-Urban, Non-Tidal Coastal Plain Physiographic Province, Virginia and Maryland