Using discharge and channel geometry measurements from U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations and data from a geographic information system, regression relations were derived to predict river depth, top width, and bottom width as a function of mean annual discharge for rivers in the State of Washington. A new technique also was proposed to determine bottom width in channels, a parameter that has received relatively little attention in the geomorphology literature. These regression equations, when combined with estimates of mean annual discharge available in the National Hydrography Dataset, enabled the prediction of hydraulic geometry for any stream or river in the State of Washington.
Predictions of hydraulic geometry can then be compared to thresholds established by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to determine navigability potential of rivers. Rivers with a mean annual discharge of 1,660 cubic feet per second or greater are 'probably navigable' and rivers with a mean annual discharge of 360 cubic feet per second or less are 'probably not navigable'. Variance in the dataset, however, leads to a relatively wide range of prediction intervals. For example, although the predicted hydraulic depth at a mean annual discharge of 1,660 cubic feet per second is 3.5 feet, 90-percent prediction intervals indicate that the actual hydraulic depth may range from 1.8 to 7.0 feet. This methodology does not determine navigability - a legal concept determined by federal common law - instead, this methodology is a tool for predicting channel depth, top width, and bottom width for rivers and streams in Washington.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Navigability Potential of Washington Rivers and Streams Determined with Hydraulic Geometry and a Geographic Information System