Posterior assessment of reference gages for water resources management using instantaneous flow measurements

Can Liu, Zhenxing Zhang, John Wassil Balay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reference stream gages are commonly used for a variety of hydrologic studies and water resources management purposes. Reference gage selection methods have been extensively investigated in literature. However, the posterior assessment of reference gages is a long-standing challenge faced by water resources managers. This study aims to evaluate the accuracy of using reference gages in estimating low flow conditions at ungaged sites. The proposed assessment method is comprised of three fundamental components including: (1) a field campaign to obtain instantaneous flow measurements at ungaged sites during baseflow conditions; (2) streamflow correlation and streamflow ratio analyses using field measured values at ungaged sites and concurrent reference gage data; and (3) map correlation analysis to identify alternative reference gages for ungaged sites with undesirable flow correlation and flow ratio values. The method was tested using 18 systematically selected reference gages used by the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for regulating water withdrawals and ensuring compliance with passby flow requirements. Streamflow monitoring during baseflow conditions over the course of four consecutive low flow seasons resulted in the collection of ten streamflow measurements for each ungaged site. The streamflow correlation coefficients between streamflow measurements at ungaged sites and concurrent reference gage streamflow data were found to be greater than 0.7 for 17 of the 18 sites. Map correlation analysis was conducted to identify alternative reference gages for three ungaged sites which exhibited high prediction errors or low streamflow correlation. The case study demonstrates that proposed posterior assessment method for evaluating reference gage performance is easy to use with reasonable cost.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-19
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018


  • ISWS
  • Water resources management
  • Reference gage
  • Map correlation
  • Streamflow correlation
  • Streamflow ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry


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