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Estimating selected low-flow frequency statistics and harmonic-mean flows for ungaged, unregulated streams in Indiana

October 25, 2016

Information on low-flow characteristics of streams is essential for the management of water resources. This report provides equations for estimating the 1-, 7-, and 30-day mean low flows for a recurrence interval of 10 years and the harmonic-mean flow at ungaged, unregulated stream sites in Indiana. These equations were developed using the low-flow statistics and basin characteristics for 108 continuous-record streamgages in Indiana with at least 10 years of daily mean streamflow data through the 2011 climate year (April 1 through March 31). The equations were developed in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

Regression techniques were used to develop the equations for estimating low-flow frequency statistics and the harmonic-mean flows on the basis of drainage-basin characteristics. A geographic information system was used to measure basin characteristics for selected streamgages. A final set of 25 basin characteristics measured at all the streamgages were evaluated to choose the best predictors of the low-flow statistics.

Logistic-regression equations applicable statewide are presented for estimating the probability that selected low-flow frequency statistics equal zero. These equations use the explanatory variables total drainage area, average transmissivity of the full thickness of the unconsolidated deposits within 1,000 feet of the stream network, and latitude of the basin outlet. The percentage of the streamgage low-flow statistics correctly classified as zero or nonzero using the logistic-regression equations ranged from 86.1 to 88.9 percent.

Generalized-least-squares regression equations applicable statewide for estimating nonzero low-flow frequency statistics use total drainage area, the average hydraulic conductivity of the top 70 feet of unconsolidated deposits, the slope of the basin, and the index of permeability and thickness of the Quaternary surficial sediments as explanatory variables. The average standard error of prediction of these regression equations ranges from 55.7 to 61.5 percent.

Regional weighted-least-squares regression equations were developed for estimating the harmonic-mean flows by dividing the State into three low-flow regions. The Northern region uses total drainage area and the average transmissivity of the entire thickness of unconsolidated deposits as explanatory variables. The Central region uses total drainage area, the average hydraulic conductivity of the entire thickness of unconsolidated deposits, and the index of permeability and thickness of the Quaternary surficial sediments. The Southern region uses total drainage area and the percent of the basin covered by forest. The average standard error of prediction for these equations ranges from 39.3 to 66.7 percent.

The regional regression equations are applicable only to stream sites with low flows unaffected by regulation and to stream sites with drainage basin characteristic values within specified limits. Caution is advised when applying the equations for basins with characteristics near the applicable limits and for basins with karst drainage features and for urbanized basins. Extrapolations near and beyond the applicable basin characteristic limits will have unknown errors that may be large. Equations are presented for use in estimating the 90-percent prediction interval of the low-flow statistics estimated by use of the regression equations at a given stream site.

The regression equations are to be incorporated into the U.S. Geological Survey StreamStats Web-based application for Indiana. StreamStats allows users to select a stream site on a map and automatically measure the needed basin characteristics and compute the estimated low-flow statistics and associated prediction intervals.