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Methods for estimating selected spring and fall low-flow frequency statistics for ungaged stream sites in Iowa, based on data through June 2014

September 18, 2016

A statewide study was led to develop regression equations for estimating three selected spring and three selected fall low-flow frequency statistics for ungaged stream sites in Iowa. The estimation equations developed for the six low-flow frequency statistics include spring (April through June) 1-, 7-, and 30-day mean low flows for a recurrence interval of 10 years and fall (October through December) 1-, 7-, and 30-day mean low flows for a recurrence interval of 10 years. Estimates of the three selected spring statistics are provided for 241 U.S. Geological Survey continuous-record streamgages, and estimates of the three selected fall statistics are provided for 238 of these streamgages, using data through June 2014. Because only 9 years of fall streamflow record were available, three streamgages included in the development of the spring regression equations were not included in the development of the fall regression equations. Because of regulation, diversion, or urbanization, 30 of the 241 streamgages were not included in the development of the regression equations. The study area includes Iowa and adjacent areas within 50 miles of the Iowa border. Because trend analyses indicated statistically significant positive trends when considering the period of record for most of the streamgages, the longest, most recent period of record without a significant trend was determined for each streamgage for use in the study. Geographic information system software was used to measure 63 selected basin characteristics for each of the 211streamgages used to develop the regional regression equations. The study area was divided into three low-flow regions that were defined in a previous study for the development of regional regression equations.

Because several streamgages included in the development of regional regression equations have estimates of zero flow calculated from observed streamflow for selected spring and fall low-flow frequency statistics, the final equations for the three low-flow regions were developed using two types of regression analyses—left-censored and generalized-least-squares regression analyses. A total of 211 streamgages were included in the development of nine spring regression equations—three equations for each of the three low-flow regions. A total of 208 streamgages were included in the development of nine fall regression equations—three equations for each of the three low-flow regions. A censoring threshold was used to develop 15 left-censored regression equations to estimate the three fall low-flow frequency statistics for each of the three low-flow regions and to estimate the three spring low-flow frequency statistics for the southern and northwest regions. For the northeast region, generalized-least-squares regression was used to develop three equations to estimate the three spring low-flow frequency statistics. For the northeast region, average standard errors of prediction range from 32.4 to 48.4 percent for the spring equations and average standard errors of estimate range from 56.4 to 73.8 percent for the fall equations. For the northwest region, average standard errors of estimate range from 58.9 to 62.1 percent for the spring equations and from 83.2 to 109.4 percent for the fall equations. For the southern region, average standard errors of estimate range from 43.2 to 64.0 percent for the spring equations and from 78.1 to 78.7 percent for the fall equations.

The regression equations are applicable only to stream sites in Iowa with low flows not substantially affected by regulation, diversion, or urbanization and with basin characteristics within the range of those used to develop the equations. The regression equations will be implemented within the U.S. Geological Survey StreamStats Web-based geographic information system application. StreamStats allows users to click on any ungaged stream site and compute estimates of the six selected spring and fall low-flow statistics; in addition, 90-percent prediction intervals and the measured basin characteristics for the ungaged site are provided. StreamStats also allows users to click on any Iowa streamgage to obtain computed estimates for the six selected spring and fall low-flow statistics.

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