A Comparative Study of Stream-Gaging Methods Employed in Nonpoint Source Pollution Studies in Small Streams
Mitchem, Jr., Charles E.
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The U.S. Geological Survey started measuring stream flow in 1888 as part of a public land irrigation study. The demand for accurate stream flow measurement has increased with the rising concern about nonpoint source (NPS) pollution. NPS pollution studies, such as TMDL development, often involve quantification of flow in small first and second order streams. This application of technology intended for use in larger streams presents special problems that must be addressed by the user. The goal of this study was to conduct a comparative analysis of the current technologies used to measure flow in small streams with respect to accuracy and cost. The analyses involved field investigations, laboratory experiments, and a cost analysis. The specific study objectives were: 1) Compare the accuracy of various methods for estimating stream discharge in small first and second order streams, 2) Compare the accuracy of various methods for estimating stream discharge in a controlled laboratory environment, and 3) Evaluate the costs associated with installation, operation, and maintenance of each of the systems investigated. Ten stream-gaging methods were evaluated for their field performance, laboratory performance, and costs. Analysis of the field investigation data indicated that the Marsh McBirney current meter and the One-orange method were the most accurate among the methods studied. The results of the laboratory experiments imply that the Starflow acoustic Doppler and Valeport BFM001 current meter performed best among the ten methods. The Starflow acoustic Doppler device also proved to be the most cost-effective method. Overall, the Marsh McBirney and Valeport BFM001 current meters exhibited the best performance for both field and laboratory situations among the methods evaluated.
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