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Simulation of streamflow and the effects of brush management on water yields in the Double Mountain Fork Brazos River watershed, western Texas 1994–2013

April 20, 2016

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Lubbock and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, developed and calibrated a Soil and Water Assessment Tool watershed model of the Double Mountain Fork Brazos River watershed in western Texas to simulate monthly mean streamflow and to evaluate the effects of brush management on water yields in the watershed, particularly to Lake Alan Henry, for calendar years 1994–2013. Model simulations were done to quantify the possible change in water yield of individual subbasins in the Double Mountain Fork Brazos River watershed as a result of the replacement of shrubland (brush) with grassland. The simulation results will serve as a tool for resource managers to guide brush-management efforts.

The model was calibrated from 1994 through 2008 and validated from 2009 through 2013 with streamflow data collected at the U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging station 08079600 Double Mountain Fork Brazos River at Justiceburg, Texas (hereinafter referred to as the “Justiceburg gage”). Simulated monthly mean streamflow showed agreement with measured monthly mean streamflow for the 1994–2013 study period: the percentage bias was +6, the coefficient of determination was 0.73, and the Nash–Sutcliffe coefficient of model efficiency was 0.71.

The calibrated watershed model was used to perform brush-management simulations. The National Land Cover Database 2006, which was the land-cover data used to develop the watershed model, was modified to simulate shrubland replacement with grassland in each of the 35 model subbasins. After replacement of shrubland with grassland in areas with land slope less than 20 percent and excluding riparian areas, the modeled 20-year (1994 through 2013) water yields to Lake Alan Henry increased by 114,000 acre-feet or about 5,700 acre-feet per year. In terms of the increase in water yield per acre of shrubland replaced with grassland, the average annual increase in water yield was 17,300 gallons per acre. Within the modeled subbasins, the increase in average annual water yield ranged from 5,850 to 34,400 gallons per acre of shrubland replaced with grassland. Subbasins downstream from the Justiceburg gage had a higher average annual increase in water yield (21,700 gallons per acre) than subbasins upstream from the streamflow-gaging station (16,800 gallons per acre).