Evaluation of statistical and rainfall-runoff models for predicting historical daily streamflow time series in the Des Moines and Iowa River watersheds

Scientific Investigations Report 2015-5089
Prepared in cooperation with the Department of the Interior WaterSMART Program
By: , and 

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Abstract

Daily records of streamflow are essential to understanding hydrologic systems and managing the interactions between human and natural systems. Many watersheds and locations lack streamgages to provide accurate and reliable records of daily streamflow. In such ungaged watersheds, statistical tools and rainfall-runoff models are used to estimate daily streamflow. Previous work compared 19 different techniques for predicting daily streamflow records in the southeastern United States. Here, five of the better-performing methods are compared in a different hydroclimatic region of the United States, in Iowa. The methods fall into three classes: (1) drainage-area ratio methods, (2) nonlinear spatial interpolations using flow duration curves, and (3) mechanistic rainfall-runoff models. The first two classes are each applied with nearest-neighbor and map-correlated index streamgages. Using a threefold validation and robust rank-based evaluation, the methods are assessed for overall goodness of fit of the hydrograph of daily streamflow, the ability to reproduce a daily, no-fail storage-yield curve, and the ability to reproduce key streamflow statistics. As in the Southeast study, a nonlinear spatial interpolation of daily streamflow using flow duration curves is found to be a method with the best predictive accuracy. Comparisons with previous work in Iowa show that the accuracy of mechanistic models with at-site calibration is substantially degraded in the ungaged framework.

Suggested Citation

Farmer, W.H., Knight, R.R., Eash, D.A., Hutchinson, K.J., Linhart, S.M., Christiansen, D.E., Archfield, S.A., Over, T.M., and Kiang, J.E., 2015, Evaluation of statistical and rainfall-runoff models for predicting historical daily streamflow time series in the Des Moines and Iowa River watersheds: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5089, 34 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20155089.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Area and Data Selection
  • Methods to Estimate Daily Streamflow
  • Methods of Analysis
  • Results and Discussion
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Stations Used in Analysis
  • Appendix 2. Basin Characteristics Used in Analysis
  • Appendix 3. Cross-Validation of Map Correlation
  • Appendix 4. Distributions of Each Performance Metric

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Evaluation of statistical and rainfall-runoff models for predicting historical daily streamflow time series in the Des Moines and Iowa River watersheds
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2015-5089
DOI 10.3133/sir20155089
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Office of Surface Water
Description vii, 34 p.
Country United States
State Iowa, Minnesota
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N