Technique for Simulating Peak-Flow Hydrographs in Maryland
By Jonathan J.A. Dillow
The efficient design and management of many bridges, culverts, embankments, and flood-protection structures may require the estimation of time-of-inundation and (or) storage of floodwater relating to such structures. These estimates can be made on the basis of information derived from the peak-flow hydrograph. Average peak-flow hydrographs corresponding to a peak discharge of specific recurrence interval can be simulated for drainage basins having drainage areas less than 500 square miles in Maryland, using a direct technique of known accuracy. The technique uses dimensionless hydrographs in conjunction with estimates of basin lagtime and instantaneous peak flow.
Ordinary least-squares regression analysis was used to develop an equation for estimating basin lagtime in Maryland. Drainage area, main channel slope, forest cover, and impervious area were determined to be the significant explanatory variables necessary to estimate average basin lagtime at the 95-percent confidence interval. Qualitative variables included in the equation adequately correct for geographic bias across the State. The average standard error of prediction associated with the equation is approximated as plus or minus (+/-) 37.6 percent. Volume correction factors may be applied to the basin lagtime on the basis of a comparison between actual and estimated hydrograph volumes prior to hydrograph simulation.
Three dimensionless hydrographs were developed and tested using data collected during 278 significant rainfall-runoff events at 81 stream-gaging stations distributed throughout Maryland and Delaware. The data represent a range of drainage area sizes and basin conditions.
The technique was verified by applying it to the simulation of 20 peak-flow events and comparing actual and simulated hydrograph widths at 50 and 75 percent of the observed peak-flow levels. The events chosen are considered extreme in that the average recurrence interval of the selected peak flows is 130 years. The average standard errors of prediction were +/- 61 and +/- 56 percent at the 50 and 75 percent of peak-flow hydrograph widths, respectively.