RWater: A Cyber-enabled Data-driven Tool for Enhancing Hydrology Education
Course overview Offering: default Section: Fall 2014
This tutorial familiarizes the users with the RWater interface and its functionality.
Module 1: Understanding the Hydrologic Cycle
The Hydrologic Cycle (often called the water cycle) is the vertical and horizontal movement of water in either vapor, liquid, or solid form between the earth’s surface, subsurface, atmosphere, and oceans. Hydrologic analyses and water resources managements are mostly based on watersheds. So, in-depth understanding of how the water moves when it rains over a watershed is very much essential in order to more effectively use the associated hydrologic data sources and analytical tools. In this module, students will learn: (i) about the major components of hydrologic cycle; (ii) how to define a watershed; (iii) how to access flow records at a specific stream location using internet
Module 2: Effect of Rainfall Intensity on Streamflow Response
In order to launch students’ primary level of insights on the rainfall-streamflow relation, this module consists of four hypothetical examples, supplemented with the definitions of some fundamental hydrologic terminologies. After completing this module, students will be able to: (i) get familiar with rainfall hyetographs and streamflow hydrographs, and build the concepts of Peak Discharge and Lag Time; (ii) understand how the streamflow responds with different rainfall intensity situations, based on hypothetical examples.
Module 3: Understanding Rainfall-Streamflow Relationship from Real-time Gage Station Data
From the hypothetical examples shown in the previous module, students already have the concepts of rainfall hyetographs and streamflow hydrographs, along with relevant terminologies such as Peak Discharge and Lag Time. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has thousands of gage stations all over the USA, monitoring the streamflow. After completing this module, students will be able to: (i) download the USGS daily streamflow data for particular locations directly through RWater; (ii) plot rainfall hyetograph and streamflow hydrograph by writing simple programming lines in RWater interface, based on the actual data at any USGS location; (iii) visualize the effect of rainfall intensity over lag time and peak discharge in an interactive way using the graphs created by their own
Module 4: Effect of Watershed Characteristics on Runoff Generation and Streamflow Response
The physical properties of an area influence the flow of water in the streams. These properties may be associated with natural and human factors. This module demonstrates few hypothetical examples through which students will be able to: (i) recognize some of the major physical properties of a watershed (watershed characteristics); (ii) explain how these properties effect runoff generation and streamflow response
Module 5: How does Urbanization effects Streamflow over Time
Urbanization refers to the concentration of human population into discrete areas, leading to transformation of land for residential, commercial and transportation purposes. Such changes in landuse result into unprecedented changes in ecosystems and environmental processes. From the previous modules, we have come to know that flow pattern in a stream can be affected by any of the three major factors: climatic, geographic as well as human induced changes. Urbanization falls into the ‘human factor’ category. After completing this module, students will be able to: (i) see the trend of landuse change in Las Vegas, Nevada, the fastest growing city in the United States over the past two decades; (ii) visualize the possible changes in streamflow for a small watershed in the same area, being caused by this ongoing process of urbanization
Module 6: Assessment of Urbanization Effect on Streamflow using Flow Duration Curve
During the process of landuse change, when a forest, agricultural or open grassland area is converted into highways, streets, parking lots, sidewalks, and buildings, the ground can no more absorb rain water in the same quantity it was “used to” do earlier. Rather, majority portion of the rain quickly routes to the nearby stream in the form of surface runoff. These result into the three major attributes of urbanization effects on streamflow: (i) higher peak discharge and overall rise in total volume of water in the stream, (ii) more frequent high flow condition or flash flooding under similar rainfall condition compared to a non-urban context, (iii) increased surface runoff contribution into the stream along with decreased groundwater flow. However, these attributes are often difficult to understand simply by looking into the long term streamflow hydrograph, especially for places where rate of urbanization is gradual. Analyzing a Flow Duration Curve (FDC) can be very helpful in this regard. After completing this module, students will be able to: (i) draw FDC for any location using the USGS streamflow data in RWater; (ii) understand the change in streamflow pattern being caused by this ongoing process of urbanization, simply by analyzing the FDC of that location.
Module 7: Flood Frequency Analysis to Assess Return Period of Extreme Events
It is important to quantify how frequent an extreme flow condition would be over a designated period of time. The Flood Frequency Analysis is a helpful tool in this regard. This analysis involves fair amount of calculation and data processing, requiring significant level of understanding of the process and expertise. However, this RWater module is designed in a way that after completing this module, students will be able to: (i) perform flood frequency analysis using USGS peak flow records by writing RWater scripts without any sort of data pre-processing; (ii) understand the concepts of return period and probability of occurrence at which a flow of specific magnitude may occur over a certain period of time, and calculate them for an actual stream location; (iii) identify how does the return period of a specific magnitude flood at the same location get altered in course of time as a result of climate and landuse change.
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