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Analysis of runoff from small drainage basins in Wyoming

January 1, 1994

A flood-hydrograph study has defined the magnitude and frequency of flood volumes and flood peaks that can be expected from drainage basins smaller than 11 square miles in the plains and valley areas of Wyoming. Rainfall and runoff data, collected for 9 years on a seasonal basis (April through September), were used to calibrate a rainfall-runoff model on each of 22 small basins. Long-term records of runoff volume and peak discharge were synthesized for these 22 basins.

Flood volumes and flood peaks of specific recurrence intervals (2, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 years) were then related to basin characteristics with a high degree of correlation. Flood volumes were related to drainage area, maximum relief, and basin slope. Flood peaks were related to drainage area, maximum relief, basin slope, and channel slope. An investigation of ponding behind a highway embankment, with available storage capacity and with a culvert to allow outflow, has shown that the single fast-rising peak is most important in culvert design. Consequently, a dimensionless hydrograph defines the characteristic shape of flood hydrographs to be expected from small drainage basins in Wyoming. For design purposes, a peak and volume can be estimated from basin characteristics and used with the dimensionless hydrograph to produce a synthetic single-peak hydrograph. Incremental discharges of the hydrograph can be routed along a channel, where a highway fill and culvert are to be placed, to help determine the most economical size of culvert if embankment storage is to be considered.