Report Abstract


By Scott D. Waltemeyer

Data collected from 20 U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations, most of which were operated in New Mexico between about 1969 and 1977, were used to define hydrograph characteristics for small New Mexico streams. Drainage areas for the gaging stations ranged from 0.23 to 18.2 square miles. Observed values for the hydrograph characteristics were determined for 87 of the most significant rainfall-runoff events at these gaging stations and were used to define regional regression relations with basin characteristics. Regional relations defined lag time (tl), time of concentration (tc), and time to peak (tp) as functions of stream length and basin shape. The regional equation developed for time of concentration for New Mexico agrees well with the Kirpich equation developed for Tennessee. The Kirpich equation is based on stream length and channel slope, whereas the New Mexico equation is based on stream length and basin shape. Both equations, however, underestimate tc when applied to larger basins where tc is greater than about 2 hours.

The median ratio between tp and tc for the observed data was 0.66, which equals the value (0.67) recommended by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (formerly the Soil Conservation Service). However, the median ratio between tl and tc was only 0.42, whereas the commonly used ratio is 0.60.

A relation also was developed between unit-peak discharge (qu) and time of concentration. The unit-peak discharge relation is similar in slope to the Natural Resources Conservation Service equation, but the equation developed for New Mexico in this study produces estimates of qu that range from two to three times as large as those estimated from the Natural Resources Conservation Service equation.

An average value of 833 was determined for the empirical constant Kp. A default value of 484 has been used by the Natural Resources Conservation Service when site-specific data are not available. The use of a lower value of Kp in calculations generally results in a lower peak discharge. A relation between the empirical constant Kp and average channel slope was defined in this study. The predicted Kp values from the equation ranged from 530 to 964 for the 20 flood-hydrograph gaging stations. The standard error of estimate for the equation is 36 percent.

Abstract from WRIR 01-4154


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