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Keywords:

  • geomorphology;
  • surface water hydrology;
  • statistics;
  • regional curves;
  • recurrence interval;
  • bankfull

Haucke, Jessica and Katherine A. Clancy, 2011. Stationarity of Streamflow Records and Their Influence on Bankfull Regional Curves. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 47(6):1338–1347. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00590.x

Abstract:  Bankfull regional curves, which are curves that establish relationships among channel morphology, discharge, drainage area, are used extensively for stream restoration. These curves are developed upon the assumption that streamflows maintain stationarity over the entire record. We examined this assumption in the Driftless Area of southwestern Wisconsin where agricultural soil retention practices have changed, and precipitation has increased since the 1970s. We developed a bankfull regional curve for this area using field surveys of bankfull channel performed during 2008-2009 and annual series of peak streamflows for 10 rivers with streamflow records ranging from the 1930s to 2009. We found bankfull flows to correlate to a 1.1 return period. To evaluate gage data statistics, we used the sign test to compare our channel morphology to historic 1.5 return period discharge (Q1.5) for five time periods: 1959-1972, 1973-1992, 1993-2008, 1999-2008, and the 1959-2008 period of record. Analysis of the historic gage data indicated that there has been a more than 30% decline in Q1.5 since 1959. Our research suggests that land conservation practices may have a larger impact on gaging station stationarity than annual precipitation changes do. Additionally, historic peak flow data from gages, which have records that span land conservation changes, may need to be truncated to represent current flow regimes.