Precipitation, Temperature, Groundwater-Level Elevation, Streamflow, and Potential Flood Storage Trends Within the Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity River Basins in Texas Through 2017

Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5137
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District
By: , and 

Links

  • Document: Report (20.3 MB pdf)
  • Tables:
    • Table 5— (80 kB xlsx) Summary of annual, seasonal, and monthly associations between precipitation volume and streamflow volume in the Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity River Basins
    • Table 7— (64 kB xlsx) Summary of precipitation temporal trends around the time of annual peak streamflow in the Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity River Basins
    • Table 8— (144 kB xlsx) Summary of annual, seasonal, and monthly streamflow volume trends in the Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity River Basins
    • Table 9— (120 KB xlsx) Summary of annual, seasonal, and monthly trends in the ratio of streamflow volume to precipitation volume in the Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity River Basins
    • Table 10— (48 kB xlsx) Summary of trends in annual minimum streamflow and annual peak streamflow and relations between streamflow volume and potential flood storage volume in the Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity River Basins
  • Data Release: USGS data release— Data used to assess precipitation, temperature, groundwater-level elevation, streamflow, and potential flood storage trends within the Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity River Basins in Texas through 2017
  • Open Access Version: Publisher Index Page
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Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), analyzed streamflow trends and streamflow-related variables through 2017 in seven important water-supply basins to provide information that can help water managers with the USACE and river authorities make future water management decisions. The primary purpose of this report is to document trends in long-term streamflow data at 114 selected USGS streamflow-gaging stations and 36 simulated reservoir-inflow stations in 7 river basins primarily in Texas: Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity. In this report, trends were considered statistically significant if their p-values were less than or equal to 0.05 (p-value ≤0.05). Streamflow data selected for temporal trend analyses included annual minimum streamflow, annual peak streamflow, and streamflow volume. Precipitation, air temperature, and groundwater-level-elevation data were analyzed for trends that may help to explain changes observed in the streamflow statistics. Basins were divided into sections along county lines for precipitation analyses. Streamflow volumes were analyzed for associations with potential flood storage. The potential flood storage, defined as the difference between maximum storage and normal storage, was computed for each dam from the National Inventory of Dams database and accumulated over time based on the completion date of the dam.

Precipitation and air temperature trends were analyzed for each of the eight climate divisions (High Plains, Trans-Pecos, Low Rolling Hills, Edwards Plateau, North Central Texas, South Central Texas, East Texas, and Upper Coast). Results of precipitation trend analyses indicated moderate upward trends in the Upper Coast and East Texas Climate Divisions analyzed on an annual time step from 1900 through 2017. These two climate divisions are in the eastern and southeastern parts of the State, and they receive more mean annual precipitation (45.88 and 46.09 inches, respectively) than the other climate divisions. The results of air temperature analyses indicated upward trends in annual mean air temperature within all climate divisions, with a mean slope of 0.02 degree Fahrenheit per year, or 1 degree every 50 years.

Within the Brazos River Basin, results of precipitation trend analyses on an annual time step indicated that precipitation amounts are most likely increasing in the lower and middle sections of the basin. Downward trends in annual streamflow and in the ratio of streamflow volume to precipitation volume were indicated at 7 of the 15 stations in the upper sections of the basin. The lower sections of the basin had mostly downward trends in annual minimum streamflow, whereas upward trends in annual minimum streamflow were indicated in the upper sections of the basin. Downward trends in annual peak streamflow were indicated at many of the stations in the upper sections of the basin. At the same seven stations in the upper sections of the basin where there were downward trends in annual streamflow, there were also downward trends in the ratio of streamflow volume to precipitation volume. The data from the same seven stations indicated negative associations between potential flood storage volume and annual streamflow volume and downward trends in the ratio of annual streamflow volume to potential flood storage volume. With the known addition of 13,006,394 acre-feet of potential flood storage between 1900 and 2010 in the subbasins analyzed, streamflow volumes have decreased in the upper sections of the Brazos River Basin.

Within the Colorado River Basin, results of precipitation trend analyses on an annual time step indicated no trends in the basin. Downward trends in annual streamflow were indicated at 16 stations in the upper sections of the basin, whereas no trends in annual streamflow were indicated in the lower section of the basin. In the lower section of the basin, one station that was operated as a continuous streamflow-gaging station through 2017 had a downward trend in annual minimum streamflow, and another station (operated through 2007) had an upward trend in annual minimum streamflow. In the upper sections of the basin, data from seven stations indicated upward trends in annual minimum streamflow, and data from six stations indicated downward trends. Data from 18 stations in the upper sections of the basin indicated downward trends in annual peak streamflow. Thirteen of the 16 stations in the upper sections of the basin with data that indicated downward trends in annual streamflow also have data that indicated downward trends in the ratio of streamflow volume to precipitation volume. Data from the same 13 stations indicated negative associations between potential flood storage volume and annual streamflow volume and downward trends in the ratio of annual streamflow volume to potential flood storage volume. With the known addition of 7,193,147 acre-feet of potential flood storage between 1891 and 2014 in the subbasins analyzed, streamflow volumes have decreased in the upper sections of the Colorado River Basin.

Within the Big Cypress Basin, results of precipitation trend analyses on annual, seasonal, and monthly time steps indicated almost no trends in the basin as defined in this report. However, the annual precipitation p-value only slightly exceeded the p-value threshold for a statistically significant trend. Given the upward trend in precipitation in the East Texas Climate Division, which includes the Big Cypress Basin, and the low p-value for annual precipitation within the basin, precipitation in the basin may be increasing over time. Two annual streamflow trends, one upward and one downward, were in the upper parts of the basin. Data from USGS streamflow-gaging station 07346000 Big Cypress Bayou near Jefferson, Texas, indicated an upward trend in annual minimum streamflow and a downward trend in annual peak streamflow. The station is immediately downstream from Lake O’ the Pines; presumably, minimums have increased because of regulated releases, and annual peaks have decreased because of storage from the lake for flood control. Despite the known addition of 2,737,154 acre-feet of potential flood storage between 1898 and 2011 in the subbasins analyzed, there have not been widespread reductions in streamflow volumes in the Big Cypress Basin, except for within the drainage area for the farthest upstream station on the main stem downstream from Mount Pleasant, Texas.

Within the Guadalupe River Basin, results of precipitation trend analyses on an annual time step indicated an upward trend in the lower section of the basin, but no trends in annual streamflow were indicated in the lower section of the basin. In the upper section of the basin, data from 1 of the 13 stations indicated an upward trend in annual streamflow. Data from 6 of the 13 stations in the upper section of the basin indicated a trend in annual minimum streamflow with 4 upward and 2 downward trends. Data from 2 of the 13 stations in the upper section of the basin indicated downward trends in annual peak streamflow. Despite the known addition of 2,016,534 acre-feet of potential flood storage between 1849 and 2013 in the subbasins analyzed, streamflow volumes have not decreased in the Guadalupe River Basin.

Within the Neches River Basin, results of precipitation trend analyses on an annual time step indicated upward trends in the basin. None of the data from stations analyzed in the Neches River Basin indicated annual trends in streamflow despite upward trends in annual precipitation within the basin. Data from 9 of the 19 stations analyzed in the basin indicated upward trends in annual minimum streamflow. Data from one of the simulated-inflow stations indicated a downward trend in annual minimum streamflow into Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Data from two stations indicated downward trends in annual peak streamflow, and data from one small subbasin indicated an upward trend in annual peak streamflow. Despite the known addition of 4,839,609 acre-feet of potential flood storage between 1888 and 2008 in the subbasins analyzed, there have not been widespread reductions in streamflow volumes in the Neches River Basin.

Within the Sulphur River Basin, results of precipitation trend analyses on an annual time step indicated a moderate upward trend within the basin. Data from only one of the stations, the simulated inflow to Jim Chapman Lake, indicated an annual upward trend in streamflow despite an upward trend in annual precipitation throughout the basin. Data from three of the six stations in the Sulphur River Basin indicated upward trends in annual minimum streamflow, and data from one of the six stations indicated a downward trend in annual peak streamflow. Despite the known addition of 6,933,361 acre-feet of potential flood storage between 1904 and 2006 in the subbasins analyzed, streamflow volumes have not decreased in the Sulphur River Basin.

Within the Trinity River Basin, results of precipitation trend analyses on an annual time step indicated upward trends in most sections of the basin. Data from 8 of the 36 stations analyzed for trends in annual streamflow indicated upward trends, and all 8 stations are in the upper sections of the basin. None of the data from stations in the lower sections of the basin indicated trends in annual streamflow. Data from 16 of the 36 stations indicated upward trends in annual minimum streamflow. Upward trends in annual minimum streamflow could be the result of managed reservoir releases in combination with wastewater treatment plant releases in the large Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex in the upper sections of the basin. All the trends in annual peak streamflow were in the sections of the basin that include the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Data from two stations, one USGS streamflow-gaging station and one simulated-inflow station, indicated upward trends in annual peak streamflow, and data from one streamflow-gaging station indicated a downward trend in annual peak streamflow. Of the basins included in this study, the Trinity River Basin has the second largest amount of potential flood storage of 8,947,349 acre-feet from dams added between 1890 and 2013. Eleven stations in the Trinity River Basin had positive associations between potential flood storage volume and annual streamflow volume, indicating that annual streamflow increases as potential flood storage increases. Data from 7 of the 11 stations also indicated upward trends in annual streamflow. The positive associations may be the result of increases in minimum streamflow, which could be the result of any combination of managed reservoir releases, wastewater treatment plant releases, or increased runoff from urbanized areas, particularly in the urbanized area of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Suggested Citation

Harwell, G.R., McDowell, J.S., Gunn, C.L., and Garrett, B.S., 2020, Precipitation, temperature, groundwater-level elevation, streamflow, and potential flood storage trends within the Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity River Basins in Texas through 2017: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5137, 94 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20195137.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Precipitation and Temperature Trends by Climate Division
  • Groundwater-Level Elevation Trends for Major Aquifers
  • Precipitation, Streamflow, and Potential Flood Storage Trends by River Basin
  • Summary
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Precipitation, temperature, groundwater-level elevation, streamflow, and potential flood storage trends within the Brazos, Colorado, Big Cypress, Guadalupe, Neches, Sulphur, and Trinity River Basins in Texas Through 2017
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2019-5137
DOI 10.3133/sir20195137
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Texas Water Science Center
Description Report: x, 94 p. p.; 5 Tables; Data Release
Country United States
State Texas
Online Only (Y/N) Y