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Estimating streamflow permanence with the watershed erosion prediction project model: Implications for surface water presence modeling and data collection

June 1, 2023

Many data collection efforts and modeling studies have focused on providing accurate estimates of streamflow while fewer efforts have sought to identify when and where surface water is present and the duration of surface water presence in stream channels, hereafter referred to as streamflow permanence. While physically-based hydrological models are frequently used to explore how water quantity may be influenced by various climatic and basin characteristics at local, regional, national, and global extents they are less often used to explore streamflow permanence. Herein, the Watershed Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) hydrological model is applied to watersheds in the humid H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest (HJA) and watersheds of the arid Willow and Whitehorse creeks (WW), both in Oregon, to simulate daily (WW) and annual (HJA and WW) streamflow permanence. One thousand parameter combinations were tested to calibrate WEPP to observed streamflow in the HJA watersheds and one hundred parameter combinations were tested to calibrate WEPP to observed surface water presence time series data in WW watersheds. When calibrated to observed streamflow, WEPP correctly classified annual streamflow permanence for 83% of HJA stream reaches. In the WW, WEPP simulations correctly classified 63–93% of daily streamflow permanence observations and 59-87% of annual streamflow permanence classifications. Inclusion of a dry-day threshold (the maximum number of days a stream reach could be modeled ‘dry’ but still classified as permanent for the year) improved annual accuracy in three WW watersheds from 2-10%. Parameter sets that produced the best daily accuracies in WW resulted in poor annual accuracies. Results highlight the importance of evaluating physically-based streamflow permanence models on both permanent and nonpermanent streams at daily and annual time scales to ensure evaluation metrics are appropriate for interpretation purposes. Additionally, results suggest that strategic collection of surface water presence observations and streamflow observations may support robust calibration of physically based models to simulate streamflow permanence moving forward.

Publication Year 2023
Title Estimating streamflow permanence with the watershed erosion prediction project model: Implications for surface water presence modeling and data collection
DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2023.129747
Authors Konrad Hafen, Kyle Blasch, Paul E. Gessler, Jason B. Dunham, Erin Brooks
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Hydrology
Index ID 70244124
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Idaho Water Science Center