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A point-infiltration model for estimating runoff from rainfall on small basins in semiarid areas of Wyoming

January 1, 1994

A physically based point-infiltration model was developed for computing infiltration of rainfall into soils and the resulting runoff from small basins in Wyoming. The user describes a 'design storm' in terms of average rainfall intensity and storm duration. Information required to compute runoff for the design storm by using the model include (1) soil type and description, and (2) two infiltration parameters and a surface-retention storage parameter. Parameter values are tabulated in the report. Rainfall and runoff data for three ephemeral-stream basins that contain only one type of soil were used to develop the model. Two assumptions were necessary: antecedent soil moisture is some long-term average, and storm rainfall is uniform in both time and space. The infiltration and surface-retention storage parameters were determined for the soil of each basin. Observed rainstorm and runoff data were used to develop a separation curve, or incipient-runoff curve, which distinguishes between runoff and nonrunoff rainfall data. The position of this curve defines the infiltration and surface-retention storage parameters.

A procedure for applying the model to basins that contain more than one type of soil was developed using data from 7 of the 10 study basins. For these multiple-soil basins, the incipient-runoff curve defines the infiltration and retention-storage parameters for the soil having the highest runoff potential. Parameters were defined by ranking the soils according to their relative permeabilities and optimizing the position of the incipient-runoff curve by using measured runoff as a control for the fit. Analyses of runoff from multiple-soil basins indicate that the effective contributing area of runoff is less than the drainage area of the basin. In this study, the effective drainage area ranged from 41.6 to 71.1 percent of the total drainage area. Information on effective drainage area is useful in evaluating drainage area as an independent variable in statistical analyses of hydrologic data, such as annual peak frequency distributions and sediment yield.A comparison was made of the sum of the simulated runoff and the sum of the measured runoff for all available records of runoff-producing storms in the 10 study basins. The sums of the simulated runoff ranged from 12.0 percent less than to 23.4 percent more than the sums of the measured runoff. A measure of the standard error of estimate was computed for each data set. These values ranged from 20 to 70 percent of the mean value of the measured runoff.

Rainfall-simulator infiltrometer tests were made in two small basins. The amount of water uptake measured by the test in Dugout Creek tributary basin averaged about three times greater than the amount of water uptake computed from rainfall and runoff data. Therefore, infiltrometer data were not used to determine infiltration rates for this study.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1990
Title A point-infiltration model for estimating runoff from rainfall on small basins in semiarid areas of Wyoming
DOI 10.3133/wsp2366
Authors James G. Rankl
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water Supply Paper
Series Number 2366
Index ID wsp2366
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse