Date of this Version
Dietsch, B.J., and Strauch, K.R., 2020, Trends in streamflow and precipitation for selected sites in the Elkhorn River Basin and in streamflow in the Salt Creek and Platte River Basins, Nebraska, 1961–2011: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5016, 20 p., https://doi.org/ 10.3133/ sir20205016.
To better understand the streamflow trends at the streamgages in the Elkhorn River Basin in Nebraska, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District further investigated streamflow trends at the eight streamgages on the Elkhorn River, Salt Creek, and the Lower Platte River that indicated a positive trend in streamflow characteristics and analyzed precipitation trends in the four basins upstream from the Elkhorn River Basin streamgages. An analysis of four streamgages in the Elkhorn River Basin, one streamgage in Salt Creek Basin, and three streamgages in the Lower Platte River Basin that had previously indicated trends in selected annual mean streamflow, annual low flows, fall low flows, and growing season monthly mean streamflows metrics were analyzed for the period from 1961 to 2011. A streamgage in the Upper Elkhorn River Basin (Elkhorn River at Neligh, Nebraska [USGS station 06798500; maintained by USGS from water years 1930 to 1993, maintained by Nebraska Department of Natural Resources from water years 1994 to 2019]) had significant positive trends in annual mean streamflow and insignificant trends for other streamflow metrics whereas the lower three sites (Logan Creek near Uehling, Nebr. [USGS station 06799500]; Maple Creek at Nickerson, Nebr. [USGS station 06800000]; and Elkhorn River at Waterloo, Nebr. [USGS station 06800500]) had significant positive trends for annual mean streamflow, for all durations of the annual low-flow periods (1-day, 2-day, 3-day, 7-day, 14-day, 30-day, 60-day, 90-day, and 183-day periods), for all durations of the low-flow periods in October–November (1-day, 2-day, 3-day, 7-day, 14-day, 30-day, and 60-day periods), and for monthly mean streamflow for July, August, and September. Upstream from the confluence of the Elkhorn River and the Platte River, the Platte River at North Bend, Nebr. (USGS station 06796000), streamgage indicated insignificant trends for most streamflow metrics. A streamgage in the Salt Creek Basin (Salt Creek at Greenwood, Nebr. [USGS station 06803555]) also indicated positive trends in some low-flows metrics. Streamflow at the Platte River at Louisville, Nebr. (USGS station 06805500), streamgage, downstream from the Salt Creek and Elkhorn River inflows, indicated significant positive trends in most annual and all October–November low flows and August mean streamflow but insignificant trends in annual mean streamflow and June, July, and September monthly mean streamflows. Streamflow records for the Platte River near Duncan, Nebr. (USGS station 06774000), streamgage only indicated a significant trend in the August mean streamflow; no other metrics had significant trends at the streamgage. The trend analyses are sensitive to the period that is analyzed for trends. Sites with the most significant trends for low-flow metrics for the period 1961–2011 have fewer significant trends for low-flow metrics for the period after 1980–2011. The results indicate that positive trends in low flows at the Salt Creek and Elkhorn River streamgages may be contributing to positive trends in low flows for the Platte River at Louisville, Nebr., streamgage. Likewise, streamflow in the Salt Creek and Elkhorn River Basins may be contributing to the positive trend in August mean streamflow for the Platte River at Louisville, Nebr., streamgage, three lower Elkhorn River streamgages, and the Salt Creek streamgage. Precipitation was also examined as a primary cause for streamflow trends in the Elkhorn River Basin. For the four streamgages in the Elkhorn River Basin, relations between precipitation and streamflow were examined on an annual and monthly basis using linear regression. In general, the goodness of fit for the linear relations was poor with coefficient of determination values of less than or equal to 0.10 for four of the eight relations. Only one significant increase in annual precipitation upstream from the four streamgages and the frequent detection of significant increases in streamflow after removing the effect of precipitation indicate that other factors besides precipitation may have played a role in the significant positive trends in low-flow periods in the lower Elkhorn River and its tributaries.