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Regional patterns in hydrologic response, a new three-component metric for hydrograph analysis and implications for ecohydrology, Northwest Volcanic Aquifer Study Area, USA

June 12, 2020

Study Region

Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada and Utah

Study Focus

Spatial patterns of hydrologic response were examined for the Northwest Volcanic Aquifer Study Area (NVASA). The utility of established hydrograph-separation methods for assessing hydrologic response in permeable volcanic terranes was assessed and a new three-component metric for hydrograph analysis was developed. The new metric, which partitions streamflow into subcomponents defined by the timescales of hydrologic response (e.g., fast-runoff, intermediate-interflow and slow-baseflow), was used to gain a fundamental understanding of the regional hydrology, investigate sub-regional differences, influencing factors, and ecohydrological implications.

New Hydrological Insights

The combined effects of NVASA’s physiography, climate and geology create a strongly coupled surface-groundwater system that produces copious baseflow and limited quantities of runoff and interflow. Patterns of hydrologic response are influenced by the type and rate of precipitation and permeability of the underlying geology. Under variable precipitation conditions the hydrologic response of volcanic terranes with similar permeability and subsurface-storage capacity can be significantly different. From a water management and ecohydrology perspective, understanding regional patterns of hydrologic response and sub-regional differences is fundamental. Results indicate that minimum-flow methods provide the most conservative estimate of baseflow and may be the most robust for filtering out snowmelt bias in baseflow estimates. Baseflow contributes ∼75% of the perennial streamflow across the NVASA and represents a critical component of the regional water supply that provides critical cold-water habitat.