Which baseflow metrics should be used in assessing flow regimes of urban streams?
Determining the impact of urbanisation on baseflow is complex because of the multiplicity of factors that govern subsurface flows. Although many metrics are available to quantify the baseflow regime, the lack of consensus on which metrics need to be used for baseflow characterisation limit their practical application for stormwater management. We performed principal component and correlation analyses on a set of 32 baseflow metrics to identify a subset of non-redundant metrics for baseflow characterisation. We compared the results for streamflow time series from natural and urban catchments. We found that a subset of five metrics, including at least one metric from each of the four ecologically significant flow characteristic groups (i.e. magnitude, duration, frequency, and timing), explained most of the variability in baseflow regime for both natural and urban catchments. In addition, we analysed the relationship between this set of metrics and some low flow percentiles obtained from flow duration curves. Flow percentiles were only highly correlated to the magnitude and duration metrics, confirming that flow duration curves could be satisfactorily used for baseflow characterisation, but in combination with metrics representing frequency and timing. Metrics based on integration of the flow duration curve, however, cannot simply substitute the consideration of a suite of metrics. We discuss the practicality of our results with a regional regression study; the analyses show how the metrics can be used to quantify the alterations to baseflow caused by urbanisation, and to determine baseflow restoration objectives for urbanised catchments based on pre-development baseflow regime.
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