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Application of a stream-aquifer model to Monument Creek for development of a method to estimate transit losses for reusable water, El Paso County, Colorado

October 25, 2006

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Colorado Springs Utilities, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and the El Paso County Water Authority, began a study in 2004 to (1) apply a stream-aquifer model to Monument Creek, (2) use the results of the modeling to develop a transit-loss accounting program for Monument Creek, (3) revise the existing transit-loss accounting program for Fountain Creek to incorporate new water-management strategies and allow for incorporation of future changes in water-management strategies, and (4) integrate the two accounting programs into a single program with a Web-based user interface. The purpose of this report is to present the results of applying a stream-aquifer model to the Monument Creek study reach.

Transit losses were estimated for reusable-water flows in Monument Creek that ranged from 1 to 200 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) and for native streamflows that ranged from 0 to 1,000 ft3/s. Transit losses were estimated for bank-storage, channel-storage, and evaporative losses. The same stream-aquifer model used in the previously completed (1988) Fountain Creek study was used in the Monument Creek study.

Sixteen model nodes were established for the Monument Creek study reach, defining 15 subreaches. Channel length, aquifer length, and aquifer width for the subreaches were estimated from available topographic and geologic maps. Thickness of alluvial deposits and saturated thickness were estimated using lithologic and water-level data from about 100 wells and test holes in or near the Monument Creek study reach. Estimated average transmissivities for the subreaches ranged from 2,000 to 12,000 feet squared per day, and a uniform value of 0.20 was used for storage coefficient.

Qualitative comparison of recorded and simulated streamflow at the downstream node for the calibration and verification simulations indicated that the two streamflows compared reasonably well. No adjustments were made to the model parameters. Differences between recorded and simulated streamflow volumes for all calibration and verification simulations ranged from about –8.8 to 7.5 percent; the total error for all simulations was about –0.7 percent.

The model was used to estimate bank-storage losses for 10 to 15 native streamflows for each reusable-water flow of 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 100, and 200 ft3/s. Then the 10 to 15 bank-storage loss values were used in least-squares linear regression to estimate a relation between bank-storage loss and native streamflow for each of the 12 reusable-water flow rates. The 12 regression relations then were used to develop “look-up” tables of bank-storage loss for reusable-water flows ranging from 1 to 200 ft3/s (in 1-ft3/s increments). Additional model simulations indicated that (1) when the ratio of downstream native streamflow to upstream native streamflow was less than 1, bank-storage loss generally increased and (2) when the ratio of downstream native streamflow to upstream native streamflow was larger than 1, bank-storage loss generally decreased. These results were used to develop a bank-storage loss adjustment factor based on the ratio of native streamflow at the downstream node to native streamflow at the upstream node. The model also was used to estimate a recovery period, which is the length of time needed for the bank-storage loss to return to the stream. The recovery period was 1 day for six subreaches; 2 days for four subreaches; between 3 and 12 days for four subreaches; and 28 days for one subreach.

Channel-storage losses are about 10 percent of the reusable-water flow for most of the subreaches, except for two subreaches, where the channel-storage losses are about 20 percent, and one subreach, where the losses are about 30 percent, owing to the greater channel lengths. Evaporative losses were estimated by the use of monthly pan-evaporation data and the incremental increase in stream width resulting from any reusable-water flows. Monthly pan-evaporation data were converted to a daily rate. The daily rate, when multiplied by the stream-width increase (in feet) that results from reusable-water flow and by the subreach length (in miles) gives the daily evaporative loss in cubic feet per second.