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Methods for estimating selected low-flow frequency statistics and mean annual flow for ungaged locations on streams in Alabama

September 21, 2020

Streamflow data and statistics are vitally important for proper protection and management of the water quality and water quantity of Alabama streams. Such data and statistics are generally available at U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations, also referred to as streamgages or stations, but are often needed at ungaged stream locations. To address this need, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with numerous Alabama State agencies and organizations, developed regional regression equations for estimating selected low-flow frequency statistics and mean annual flow for ungaged locations on streams in Alabama that are not substantially affected by tides, regulation, diversions, or other anthropogenic influences. A small percentage of the streamgages included in this study experience zero flows during certain periods; thus, the final low-flow frequency regression equations were developed by using weighted left-censored regression analyses to analyze the flow data in an unbiased manner, with weights based on number of years of record.

The equations developed include the annual minimum 1- and 7-day average streamflows with a 10-year recurrence interval (referred to as the 1Q10 and 7Q10 flows), the annual minimum 7-day average streamflow with a 2-year recurrence interval (referred to as the 7Q2 flow), and the mean annual flow using data from 174 streamgages from Alabama and surrounding States. For the 1Q10, 7Q2, and 7Q10 low-flow frequency statistics, the regional regression equations are functions of drainage area, streamflow-variability index, mean annual precipitation, and percentage of the drainage basin located in the Piedmont and Southeastern Plains ecoregions. The mean annual flow regression equation is a function of drainage area, mean annual precipitation, and percentage of the drainage basin located in the Southeastern Plains ecoregion. For the mean annual flow regression equation, the average standard error of estimate was 11.2 percent. For the selected low-flow frequency equations, the average standard errors of estimate ranged from 18.1 to 38.8 percent.

The regional regression equations developed from this investigation have been incorporated into the U.S. Geological Survey StreamStats application for Alabama. StreamStats (https://streamstats.usgs.gov/ss/) is a web-based geographic information system application that delineates drainage basins at selected stream locations and then generates the needed basin characteristics for available regional regression equations. Along with the low-flow frequency equations developed in this investigation, the StreamStats application also has regional regression equations for estimating flood-frequency statistics at locations on rural and urban streams in Alabama.