An understanding of the magnitude and frequency of low-flow discharges is an important part of protecting surface-water resources and planning for municipal and industrial economic expansion. Low-flow characteristics are summarized for 12 continuous-record gaging stations and 44 partial-record measuring sites in the Rocky River basin in North Carolina. Records of discharge collected through the 2002 water year at continuous-record gaging stations and through the 2001 water year at partial-record measuring sites were used. Flow characteristics included in the summary are (1) average annual unit flow; (2) 7Q10 low-flow discharge, the minimum average discharge for a 7-consecutive-day period occurring, on average, once in 10 years; (3) 30Q2 low-flow discharge; (4) W7Q10 low-flow discharge, which is similar to 7Q10 discharge but is based only on flow during the winter months of November through March; and (5) 7Q2 low-flow discharge.
The Rocky River basin drains 1,413 square miles (mi2) of the southern Piedmont Province in North Carolina. The Rocky River is about 91 miles long and merges with the Yadkin River in eastern Stanly County to form the Pee Dee River, which discharges into the Atlantic Ocean in South Carolina. Low-flow characteristics compiled for selected sites in the Rocky River basin indicated that the potential for sustained base flows in the upper half of the basin is relatively higher than for streams in the lower half of the basin. The upper half of the basin is underlain by the Charlotte Belt, where streams have been identified as having moderate potentials for sustained base flows. In the lower half of the basin, many streams were noted as having little to no potential for sustained base flows. Much of the decrease in base-flow potential is attributed to the underlying rock types of the Carolina Slate Belt. Of the 19 sites in the basin having minimal (defined as less than 0.05 cubic foot per second) or zero 7Q10 discharges, 18 sites are located in the lower half of the basin underlain by the Carolina Slate Belt. Assessment of these 18 sites indicates that streams that have drainage areas less than about 25 square miles are likely to have minimal or zero 7Q10 discharges. No drainage-area threshold for minimal or zero 7Q10 discharges was identified for the upper half of the basin, which is underlain by the Charlotte Belt.
Tributaries to the Rocky River include the West Branch Rocky River (22.8 mi2), Clarke Creek (28.2 mi2), Mallard Creek (41.2 mi2), Coddle Creek (78.8 mi2), Reedy Creek (43.0 mi2), Irish Buffalo/Coldwater Creeks (110 mi2), Dutch Buffalo Creek (99 mi2), Long Creek (200 mi2), Richardson Creek (234 mi2), and Lanes Creek (135 mi2). In the 20-mile reach upstream from the mouth (about 22 percent of the river length), the drainage area increases by 648 mi2, or about 46 percent of the total drainage area as a result of the confluences with Long Creek, Richardson Creek, and Lanes Creek.
Low-flow discharge profiles for the Rocky River include 7Q10, 30Q2, W7Q10, and 7Q2 discharges in a continuous profile with contributions from major tributaries included. At the gaging stations above Irish Buffalo Creek and near Stanfield, the 7Q10 discharges are 25.2 and 42.3 cubic feet per second, corresponding to 0.09 and 0.07 cubic feet per second per square mile, respectively. At the gaging station near Norwood, the 7Q10 discharge is 45.8 cubic feet per second, equivalent to 0.03 cubic foot per second per square mile. Low-flow discharge profiles reflect the presence of several major flow diversions in the reaches upstream from Stanfield and an apparent losing reach between the continuous-record gaging stations near Stanfield and Norwood, North Carolina.