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Evaluation of the streamgage network for estimating streamflow statistics at ungaged sites in Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5149

Prepared in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission
By:
, ORCID iD , and
https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20165149

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Abstract

The current (2015) streamgage network in Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York was evaluated in order to design a network that would meet the hydrologic needs of many partners and serve a variety of purposes and interests, including estimation of streamflow statistics at ungaged sites. This study was done by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Susquehanna River Basin Commission. The study area includes the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York. For this study, 229 streamgages were identified as reference streamgages that could be used to represent ungaged watersheds. Criteria for a reference streamgage are a minimum of 10 years of continuous record, minimally altered streamflow, and a drainage area less than 1,500 square miles. Some of the reference streamgages have been discontinued but provide historical hydrologic information valuable in the determination of streamflow characteristics of ungaged watersheds. Watersheds in the study area not adequately represented by a reference streamgage were identified by examining a range of basin characteristics, the extent of geographic coverage, and the strength of estimated streamflow correlations between gaged and ungaged sites.

Basin characteristics were determined for the reference streamgage watersheds and the 1,662 12-digit hydrologic unit code (HUC12) subwatersheds in Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River Basin using a geographic information system (GIS) spatial analysis and nationally available GIS datasets. Basin characteristics selected for this study include drainage area, mean basin elevation, mean basin slope, percentage of urbanized area, percentage of forested area, percentage of carbonate bedrock, mean annual precipitation, and soil thickness. A GIS spatial analysis was used to identify HUC12 subwatersheds outside the range of basin characteristics of the reference streamgages. There were 320 HUC12 subwatersheds, or 19 percent of the study area, with basin characteristics outside the range represented by the reference streamgage watersheds.

A GIS spatial analysis was used to identify geographic gaps in the streamgage network. For each streamgage, a watershed area, called the gage statistical area (GSA), was delineated. The GSA shows the drainage area within a specific drainage-area ratio of the streamgage for transfer of streamflow statistics from that streamgage to ungaged sites on the valid statistical reach of the GSA for a streamgage. In Pennsylvania, a drainage-area ratio of 0.33–3 times the drainage area of the ungaged site was found to perform as well as, if not better than, more traditional ratios such as 0.5–1.5 (or 2) for transfer of selected streamflow statistics. A total of 1,102 HUC12 subwatersheds, or 66 percent of the study area, are outside the GSA for a reference streamgage.

The USGS Baseline Streamflow Estimator (BaSE) program was used to determine how well HUC12 subwatersheds outside the streamgage GSAs are represented by the reference streamgage network in Pennsylvania, based on estimated streamflow correlation. The centroid of each HUC12 subwatershed was run through the BaSE program to determine the reference streamgage with the highest estimated streamflow correlation. There were 929 HUC12 subwatersheds in Pennsylvania, or 56 percent of the State, with an estimated correlation coefficient less than 0.96.

The results from the basin characteristic, geographic, and streamflow correlation analyses were combined to identify 1,405 HUC12 subwatersheds in Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York that lack a representative reference, based on at least one identified gap. Of the 1,405 HUC12 subwatersheds, 139 exhibited all three gaps, indicating a 8-percent gap in the reference streamgage network.

Streamgages in areas with similar hydrologic characteristics and in close proximity to one another can potentially provide similar information (termed streamgages with high substitution potential). Streamgages were considered to have a high substitution potential with a nearby streamgage(s) if (1) the streamflow correlation coefficient was equal to or greater than 0.96, (2) the streamgages had 10 years of concurrent record, and (3) the streamgages are in the same watershed within the GSA of the streamgage. Seventy-four current (2015) streamgages with high substitution potential with at least one other streamgage were identified in the study area. Although these identified streamgages have a high substitution potential, they provide valuable streamflow information to a stakeholder. Selected primary uses of these streamgages were identified to determine the overall need for an individual streamgage.

Suggested Citation

Sloto, R.A., Stuckey, M.H., and Hoffman, S.A., 2017, Evaluation of the streamgage network for estimating streamflow statistics at ungaged sites in Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5149, 102 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20165149.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Evaluation of Streamgage Network
  • Reference Streamgage Network Gaps
  • Streamgages with High Substitution Potential in the Current Network
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Matrix of basin characteristics at U.S. Geological Survey reference streamgages in A, Delaware River Basin, B, Susquehanna and Potomac River Basins, and C, Ohio and Saint Lawrence River Basins in Pennsylvania and New York
  • Appendix 2. Absolute percent difference between observed and transferred streamflow statistics using the drainage-area ratio method at U.S. Geological Survey streamgages in Pennsylvania and southern New York
  • Appendix 3. Graphs showing absolute percent difference between observed and transferred streamflow statistics using the drainage-area ratio method at U.S. Geological Survey streamgages in Pennsylvania and southern New York
  • Appendix 4. Graphs showing relation of drainage-area ratio to absolute percent difference for transferred and computed streamflow statistics for watersheds in Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York
  • Appendix 5. HUC12 subwatersheds in Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York with basin characteristic, geographic, or streamflow correlation gaps
  • Appendix 6. U.S. Geological Survey streamgages in Pennsylvania with high substitution potential

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Evaluation of the streamgage network for estimating streamflow statistics at ungaged sites in Pennsylvania and the Susquehanna River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2016-5149
DOI:
10.3133/sir20165149
Year Published:
2017
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Pennsylvania Water Science Center
Description:
vi, 102 p.
Country:
United States
State:
New York, Pennsylvania
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N