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Predictive Models of the Hydrological Regime of Unregulated Streams in Arizona

December 30, 2009

Three statistical models were developed by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to improve the predictability of flow occurrence in unregulated streams throughout Arizona. The models can be used to predict the probabilities of the hydrological regime being one of four categories developed by this investigation: perennial, which has streamflow year-round; nearly perennial, which has streamflow 90 to 99.9 percent of the year; weakly perennial, which has streamflow 80 to 90 percent of the year; or nonperennial, which has streamflow less than 80 percent of the year. The models were developed to assist the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality in selecting sites for participation in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program.

One model was developed for each of the three hydrologic provinces in Arizona - the Plateau Uplands, the Central Highlands, and the Basin and Range Lowlands. The models for predicting the hydrological regime were calibrated using statistical methods and explanatory variables of discharge, drainage-area, altitude, and location data for selected U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations and a climate index derived from annual precipitation data. Models were calibrated on the basis of streamflow data from 46 stations for the Plateau Uplands province, 82 stations for the Central Highlands province, and 90 stations for the Basin and Range Lowlands province.

The models were developed using classification trees that facilitated the analysis of mixed numeric and factor variables. In all three models, a threshold stream discharge was the initial variable to be considered within the classification tree and was the single most important explanatory variable. If a stream discharge value at a station was below the threshold, then the station record was determined as being nonperennial. If, however, the stream discharge was above the threshold, subsequent decisions were made according to the classification tree and explanatory variables to determine the hydrological regime of the reach as being perennial, nearly perennial, weakly perennial, or nonperennial. Using model calibration data, misclassification rates for each model were 17 percent for the Plateau Uplands, 15 percent for the Central Highlands, and 14 percent for the Basin and Range Lowlands models. The actual misclassification rate may be higher; however, the model has not been field verified for a full error assessment.

The calibrated models were used to classify stream reaches for which the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality had collected miscellaneous discharge measurements. A total of 5,080 measurements at 696 sites were routed through the appropriate classification tree to predict the hydrological regime of the reaches in which the measurements were made. The predictions resulted in classification of all stream reaches as perennial or nonperennial; no reaches were predicted as nearly perennial or weakly perennial. The percentages of sites predicted as being perennial and nonperennial, respectively, were 77 and 23 for the Plateau Uplands, 87 and 13 for the Central Highlands, and 76 and 24 for the Basin and Range Lowlands.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2009
Title Predictive Models of the Hydrological Regime of Unregulated Streams in Arizona
DOI 10.3133/ofr20091269
Authors David W. Anning, John T.C. Parker
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2009-1269
Index ID ofr20091269
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Arizona Water Science Center