Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Streamflow contributions from tribal lands to major river basins of the United States

September 11, 2018

While many studies on tribal water resources of individual tribal lands in the United States (US) have been conducted, the importance of tribal water resources at a national scale has largely gone unrecognized because their combined totals have not been quantified. Thus, we sought to provide a numerical estimate of major water budget components on tribal lands within the conterminous US and on USGS hydrologic unit codes (HUC2) regions. Using existing national-scale data and models, we estimated mean annual precipitation, evapotranspiration, excess precipitation, streamflow, and water use for the period 1971–2000. Tribal lands represent about 3.4 percent of the total land area of the conterminous US and on average account for 1.9 percent of precipitation, 2.4 percent of actual evapotranspiration, 0.95 percent of excess precipitation, 1.6 percent of water use, and 0.43 percent of streamflow origination. Additionally, approximately 9.5 and 11.3 percent of US streamflow flows through or adjacent as boundaries to tribal lands, respectively. Streamflow through or adjacent to tribal lands accounts for 42 and 48 percent of streamflow in the Missouri region, respectively; and for 86 and 88 percent in the Lower Colorado region, respectively. On average, 5,600 million cubic meters of streamflow per year was produced on tribal lands in the Pacific Northwest region, nearly five times greater than tribal lands in any other region. Tribal lands in the Great Lakes, Missouri, Arkansas-White-Red, and California regions all produced between 1,000 and 1,400 million cubic meters per year.

Publication Year 2018
Title Streamflow contributions from tribal lands to major river basins of the United States
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0203872
Authors Kyle W. Blasch, Stephen Hundt, Patrick Wurster, Roy Sando, Antony Berthelote
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title PLoS ONE
Index ID 70199226
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Idaho Water Science Center