The possibility of a systematic change in flood potential led to an investigation of trends in the magnitude of annual peak flows in Kansas. Efficient design of highway bridges and other flood-plain structures depends on accurate understanding of flood characteristics. The Kendall's tau test was used to identify trends at 40 stream-gaging stations during the 40-year period 1958-97. Records from 13 (32 percent) of the stations showed significant trends at the 95-percent confidence level. Only three of the records (8 percent) analyzed had increasing trends, whereas 10 records (25 percent) had decreasing trends, all of which were for stations located in the western one-half of the State. An analysis of flow volume using mean annual discharge at 29 stations in Kansas resulted in 6 stations (21 percent) with significant trends in flow volumes. All six trends were decreasing and occurred in the western one-half of the State. The Kendall's tau test also was used to identify peak-flow trends over the entire period of record for 54 stream-gaging stations in Kansas. Of the 23 records (43 percent) showing significant trends, 16 (30 percent) were decreasing, and 7 (13 percent) were increasing. The trend test then was applied to 30-year periods moving in 5-year increments to identify time periods within each station record when trends were occurring. Systematic changes in precipitation patterns and long-term declines in ground-water levels in some stream basins may be contributing to peak-flow trends. To help explain the cause of the streamflow trends, the Kendall's tau test was applied to total annual precipitation and ground-water levels in Kansas. In western Kansas, the lack of precipitation and presence of decreasing trends in ground-water levels indicated that declining water tables are contributing to decreasing trends in peak streamflow. Declining water tables are caused by ground-water withdrawals and other factors such as construction of ponds and terraces. Peak-flow records containing trends introduce statistical error into flood-frequency analysis. To examine the effect of trends on flood-frequency analysis, statistically significant trends were added systematically to four nontrending station records. Flood magnitudes estimated on the basis of each data series were compared. The added trends resulted in changes in the 100-year flood magnitudes of as much as 70 percent.
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USGS Numbered Series
Trends in peak flows of selected streams in Kansas