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Edward Davis

24 September 2018
WSHD 310
Dr. Andrew Stubblefield

Homework 5 - Hillslope Hydrology

1. The NRCS Curve Runoff Procedure is used to predict how an area will respond to
different amounts of precipitation and takes into account the infiltration ability of soils,
land use, and soil water conditions at the beginning of a precipitation event. Soils are
separated into four hydrologic groups based on their infiltration characteristics. Curve
numbers can be adjusted for different antecedent soil moisture (dry/wet).
2. For small watersheds (< 1 mi2), an empirical runoff coefficient, C, and time of
concentration can be estimated using k (correction factor), A (watershed area), i
(average rainfall intensity). It makes many assumptions: uniform rainfall over drainage
area, peak runoff is reflected by rainfall intensity over the time of concentration, time
of concentration is the time needed for flow to reach the point in question from the
most hydraulically remote location, frequency of runoff is equal to the frequency of
3. Figure 5.14 shows the differences in landscape responses (forested and urban) to the
same rainfall event. Discharge in the urban landscape has a flashy response: a steep
rising limb and a steep recessional limb. Time from base flow to base flow is about 4
days. Discharge in the forested landscape has a much more gradual response: a rising
limb over 3 days, and very gradual return to base flow conditions over the next 7 days.
These responses are a direct result of runoff rates — higher runoff in an urban
landscape provides a flashy response, higher infiltration rates in the forested landscape
cause a gradual response in discharge.
4. The time of concentration is the amount of time it takes for water to travel the full
hydraulic length of the watershed— that is, from the most hydraulically remote
location in the headwaters to the watershed’s outlet. The time of concentration is
heavily dependent on land cover, surface roughness, and soil type. Its prediction is tied
to the lag time — the amount of time between a precipitation event and the discharge
response. It is a useful value to know in order to predict how a watershed will respond
to different amounts of precipitation.
5. Variable source area describes the phenomenon of some areas displaying runoff like
saturated overland flow or throughflow, while others will not. These different source
areas have different soil characteristics (e.g., antecedent soil moisture, infiltration rate)
that contribute to their potential as runoff sources. Over time, these areas can be
mapped and used to predict watershed responses to storm events.
6. In Scenario A, a constant rate of precipitation falls on an area with shallow soils. At the
beginning of the storm, a small portion of the rain is intercepted by vegetative cover.
The water then makes its way into the soil quickly due to the small volume of soil. The
deepest soil fill up with water, contributing to groundwater recharge. Excess moisture
cannot be absorbed, and is disposed of as overland flow.

In Scenario B, constant precipitation falls on deep, extremely porous soils. The first
precipitation is intercepted by vegetative cover, and then the soil moisture quickly
increases due to high porosity and infiltration. Because of the depth of the soil profile,
excess moisture flows through the hillslope as groundwater runoff. 

In Scenario C, constant precipitation falls on frozen soil. Some precipitation is
intercepted by vegetative cover, but the remainder is disposed of as overland flow due
to the infiltration being inhibited by a cover of frost.