Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Methods for estimating streamflow characteristics at ungaged sites in western Montana based on data through water year 2009: Chapter G in Montana StreamStats

April 5, 2016

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, developed regional regression equations based on basin and streamflow characteristics for streamflow-gaging stations through water year 2009 that can be used to estimate streamflow characteristics for ungaged sites in western Montana. The regression equations allow estimation of low-flow frequencies; mean annual and mean monthly streamflows; and the 20-, 50-, and 80-percent durations for annual and monthly duration streamflows for ungaged sites in western Montana that are unaffected by regulation.

Regression equations were developed for 54 streamflow characteristics in each of the 4 hydrologic regions generally located in western Montana. Exploratory data analyses determined that of the 40 basin characteristics used as explanatory variables, only 3 were significant in the final equations. These three basin characteristics are contributing drainage area, mean annual precipitation of the drainage basin, and percentage of basin with slopes greater than 50 percent. Low-flow frequency data and daily mean streamflow data from 152 streamflow-gaging stations were used to develop the regression equations. These 152 streamflow-gaging stations were considered to be unregulated (or only the unregulated period of record for regulated streamflow-gaging stations were used). For this study, a streamflow-gaging station is considered to be unregulated if cumulative drainage area upstream from all upstream dams is less than 20 percent of the drainage basin for the streamflow-gaging station, and if no large diversion canals are upstream from the streamflow-gaging station.

In addition to the regional regression equations, two methods for estimating streamflow characteristics based on drainage areas of a nearby streamflow-gaging station are provided. Also, spreadsheet tools are provided for calculating streamflow characteristics based on regression equations or the drainage-area ratio method.

All of the data used to calculate basin characteristics were derived from publicly available data sources and are available through the U.S. Geological Survey Streamstats program ( for Montana. The primary purpose of the Montana StreamStats application is to provide estimates of basin characteristics and streamflow characteristics for user-selected ungaged sites on Montana streams. The regional regression equations presented in this report have been loaded to the Montana StreamStats application and can be used to derive streamflow characteristics for ungaged sites.

Related Content