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Keywords:

  • stream flashiness;
  • flashiness index;
  • Indicators of Hydrological Alteration;
  • surface water hydrology;
  • watershed management;
  • stormwater management;
  • agricultural hydrology

ABSTRACT: The term flashiness reflects the frequency and rapidity of short term changes in streamflow, especially during runoff events. Flashiness is an important component of a stream's hydrologic regime. A variety of land use and land management changes may lead to increased or decreased flashiness, often to the detriment of aquatic life. This paper presents a newly developed flashiness index, which is based on mean daily flows. The index is calculated by dividing the pathlength of flow oscillations for a time interval (i.e., the sum of the absolute values of day-to-day changes in mean daily flow) by total discharge during that time interval. This index has low interannual variability, relative to most flow regime indicators, and thus greater power to detect trends. Index values were calculated for 515 Midwestern streams for the 27-year period from 1975 through 2001. Statistically significant increases were present in 22 percent of the streams, primarily in the eastern portion of the study area, while decreases were present in 9 percent, primarily in the western portion. Index values tend to decrease with increasing watershed area and with increasing unit area ground water inputs. Area compensated index values often shift at ecoregion boundaries. Potential index applications include evaluation of programs to restore more natural flow regimes.