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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Study of the stormflow hydrology of small forested watersheds in the Coast Mountains of Southwestern British Columbia Cheng, Jie-Dar


This thesis is comprised of four self contained chapters that report the results of a study on the stormflow hydrology of small forested watersheds in the Coast Mountains of southwestern British Columbia. The chapters discuss the general characteristics of the study watersheds and their instrumentation, the generation of stormflows from small forested watersheds, the stormflow (channel-phase) characteristics of one study watershed with steep topography, and the evaluation of initial changes in peak stormflow following logging of another study watershed. Chapter I. The characteristics of the study watersheds with respect to regional climate, physiography, soil hydrologic characteristics and forest cover were evaluated and summarized from available information. Emphasis is placed on the hydrologic characteristics of the watershed soils. The instrumentation of the study watersheds pertinent to the present study is also described. Due to the highly permeable nature of the watershed soils, the physical setting of the study watersheds favor a Rapid response of streamflow to rainstorms. On one study watershed this rapid response characteristic is reinforced by its steep topography and high drainage density. Chapter II. The problem of stormflow generation from small forested watersheds is dealt with by analyzing results from studies completed by the author and other workers in Jamieson Creek watershed and vicinity and by making field examinations in the same study area. A review is made of stormflow generation models, followed by analyses of rainfall intensity, saturated soil hydraulic conductivity and depression storage of the study area. These analyses revealed that overland flow rarely, if ever, occurs on coastal watersheds with hydro-logic environments similar to that of the study area. Instead, rain water takes alternate subsurface pathways through the soil to the stream channel. Observations made by the author in the study area and in other watersheds in this coastal region confirmed the existence of these alternate routes of water flow. Two types of subsurface stormflow pathways have been identified by earlier workers: (1) the matrix of forest floor and mineral soil beneath and (2) channels within or passing through the mineral soil. In the study area most soil channels were developed from dead or decaying roots. After passing through these two types of pathways, subsurface stormflows feed the expanding stream channel system laterally while rainfall is feeding the system from above. Subsurface stormflows are mainly in the form of saturated return flow from the ground and seepage flow through saturated stream banks. The stream channel system expansion during, and contraction after, a storm was measured in a small sub-watershed in the study area. It was found that the rate of stormflow from a watershed was closely related to the rate at which the stream channel expanded in response to the storm. From theestudy it is concluded that the model of subsurface stormflow from a variable source area is more appropriate than the other two models in describing stormflow generation in this coastal region. Chapter III. Stormflow characteristics of Jamieson Creek watershed, a small, steep, and forested watershed in the Coast Mountains of southwestern British Columbia, were evaluated by the analysis of 41 storm hydrographs from 1970-1974. During the study period, the rainfall amount per storm event varied from 5 to 330 mm, with the majority of the storm durations ranging from 20 to 60 hours. On the average, the fraction of storm rainfall that appeared as stormflow was 44 percent, varying from 2.5 to 81 percent. A significant number of major storms produced stormflow that accounted for more than 60 percent of the storm rainfall. Instantaneous peak flows varied considerably with storms, ranging from about 10 to 1,370 -1-2 1 s km and appeared to be mainly affected by the rainfall amount and distribution before the occurrence of the peak flow. Rising time (time to the peak) was short, usually within 30 hours, depending upon the rainfall distribution before the occurrence of the peak flow. Lag time was found to be relatively constant and short, ranging from 5 to 15 hours with an average of 8.5 hours. It is suggested that to derive lag time from characteristics of small watersheds, soil hydrologic properties should also be included with those parameters that are generally used. Stormflow amount was highly correlated with rainfall amount with 92 percent of its variance being accounted for. Antecedent base-flow rate was proposed as an index of watershed soil water storage prior to the storm hydrograph rise. One set of data from Jamieson Creek watershed and four additional data sets from two small steep watersheds in the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory were used to assess, through multiple regression analysis, the usefulness of antecedent baseflow rate in improving stormflow-rainfal1 relations. For all data sets, the inclusion of antecedent baseflow as a second independent variable significantly improved the stormflow estimate in comparison to that when rainfall amount was the only independent variable. Recession limbs of storm hydrographs varied with individual storms, depending on the degree of recharge to the watershed storage by the storm and the spatial distribution of such storage over the watershed. The stormflow characteristics of Jamieson Creek watershed reflect the influence of not only climatic conditions but also watershed characteristics: (1) shallow but highly permeable soils, (2) steep watershed slopes and stream channels, and (3) high drariinage density. The stormflow characteristics can be interpreted in terms of the generation of stormflow from a variable source area of the watershed. A comparison of the stormflow characteristics of Jamieson Creek watershed and the adjacent Elbow Creek watershed indicated that stormflow from the former usually has a sharper peak, higher peak flow ratio and steeper recession than stormflow from the latter, but both have very similar rising times. Differences in the streamflow response of the two watersheds could be caused by their differences in some topographical features. However, these differences also suggest that leakage from Elbow Creek, revealed in a preliminary field investigation, may deserve more detailed study. Chapter IV. This chapter provides the first quantitative Canadian information with respect to the impact of logging on peak stormflow. The paired-watershed technique was used to evaluate the initial changes in peak streamflow during storm periods following logging of a small watershed in the U.B.C. Research Forest, near Haney, B.C. Contrary to the majority of similar studies elsewhere, the analysis indicates that significant peak flow changes after logging occurred as follows: (1) an increase in the time to the peak, and (2) a decrease in the magnitude of the peak. The changes can be explained by (1) the degree of ground surface disturbance associated with the logging and (2) the stormflow generation mechanisms of the study area. Visual examination after the logging indicated that ground surface disturbance did not reduce the soil infiltration capacity to the extent that overland flow resulted. Workers in an earlier study speculated that forest floor disturbance could result in closure of some of the entrances to soil channels, thus increasing temporary water storage in the soil matrix. This, they further speculated, would result in reduced subsurface stormflow and, consequently, lower peak flow. The results of the present study tend to support the speculations, that the closure of some soil channel entrances is responsible for lower peak flow after logging. However, this study indicated that peak flow magnitude decreased mainly because of the flattening out of the hydrograph as a result of increased time to the peak (delayed peak rather than earlier hydrograph rise,). It is suggested that a lower rate of stormflow transmission through the soil matrix caused this increased time to the peak and, consequently, lower peak flow magnitude. Implications of this study for better water management are suggested.

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