The influence of contributing area on the hydrology of the prairie pothole region of North America
Shaw, Dean Allan
This thesis formulates a conceptual framework developed from field observations that describes the influence of surface depressions or potholes on runoff generation in the prairie pothole region of the North American prairies. The fill-and-spill of potholes results in intermittent surface water connectivity between potholes within the basin. The extent of connectivity between potholes is dependent on antecedent water levels. Dynamic connectivity between potholes results in dynamic contributing areas for runoff. The concept of connectivity is manifested in the conceptual curves presented in this thesis. These conceptual curves model the response of runoff events for landscape types found in the prairie pothole region, and capture the influence of the spatial distribution and extent of surface storage on contributing area. The conceptual curves differ due to variations in the spatial distribution and extent of surface storage volume. An algorithm based on the conceptual framework proposed is presented. The algorithm, which uses the the D-8 drainage direction method, automates a methodology for identifying and quantifying runoff contributing area. The algorithm is applied in prairie pothole basins both to demonstrate its efficacy and to test the potential for using conceptual curves to describe the relationship between decreasing potential surface storage in the landscape and contributing area. The algorithm was applied to two digital elevation models (DEM) representative of the prairie pothole region. The first DEM was created using LiDAR elevation points at a 1 m resolution for the St. Denis watershed, and the second was created from orthophotos for the Smith Creek watershed at a 25 m resolution. Fieldwork in the St. Denis watershed was carried out to both provide a basis for the conceptual framework proposed and to validate the results of the algorithm. The fieldwork involved gathering snow survey data, identifying and describing surface water conditions during a snow melt runoff event in 2006, and measuring pond levels from 2004 – 2007. Results indicate that the proposed conceptual curves represent the non-linear relationship between potential surface storage and contributing area generated by the algorithm in the test basins. To test whether the underlying concepts of the algorithm were valid, the algorithm was used to model pond level depths measured in the St. Denis drainage basin after spring runoff in 2006 and 2007. An r2 value over 0.9 was calculated for the relationship between measured and modeled pond levels in both years. Based on this work, it is clear that any hydrologic study or model applied in the prairie pothole region should consider the effect of dynamic contributing areas on runoff generation.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorPietroniro, Alain; Martz, Lawrence
CommitteeBell, Scott; Valeo, Caterina; Pomeroy, John; de Boer, Dirk; van der Kamp, Garth
Copyright DateJanuary 2010
dynamic contributing area