WLCI: Determining Streamflow Drivers in Wyoming Range Small Streams

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Flow in small mountain and plains streams is dependent on many factors such as precipitation, groundwater inflow, topography, and geology.

In order to understand why some streams flow perennially and why some are intermittent in an area that had little streamflow information, a new approach was needed that incorporated many different variables in a continuous geospatial design.

Wyoming Range WLCI small stream study locations

The 25 small stream sites used for the geospatial model are shown as red dots on the map. (Public domain.)

Quarterly streamflow data were collected at 25 sites (shown in red, right) in three small drainage basins (Dry Piney, Fogarty, and South Beaver Creeks) on the eastern side of the Wyoming Range since June 2015.  Variables that affect streamflow (streamflow drivers), such as geology, topography of the stream channel, faults, precipitation, and snowpack have been assembled into a geospatial model, and statistical analyses currently underway will allow an understanding of the most important drivers of streamflow in these small basins.

These insights will help our USGS/University of Wyoming co-investigators interpret the aquatic species distribution data, as well as describe mechanisms of sustaining small streams in the upper parts of watersheds. The new methodology may provide a framework to analyze other watersheds, in particular small headwater basins, where streamflow data do not exist. Many small streams such as these can be critical for survival of native species, and increasing our understanding of what controls streamflow will support resource management decisions in the study area.

 

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