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Surface Runoff Occurs Only Occasionally from an Upland Drainage Watershed

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Paper number  022097,  2002 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.10293) @2002
Authors:   J K Mitchell, P. Kalita, A. C. Cooke, M. C. Hirschi
Keywords:   modeling, subsurface flow, surface runoff, drainage watersheds, hydrology

Traditional hydrologic and transport modeling may not provide adequate predictions for many watersheds in nearly-flat upland areas where surface runoff seldom occurs. Data are presented to demonstrate direct surface runoff is a small percentage of the total water movement to the stream system in an upland drainage area. Although direct surface runoff may occasionally be large due to locally specific rainfall, crop, and soil conditions, over the eight year monitoring period of this study, surface runoff averaged 15 percent or less of total flow. However, it is more interesting that there were years where direct surface runoff was nearly zero even though there was sufficient rainfall for up to 198 mm of subsurface flow. Thus, sediment transport and, hence, sediment yield is insignificant until well down the mainstream of the watershed. Total nitrate-N losses are relatively high because the primary source of stream flow is subsurface flow.

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