USGS launches method to calculate streamflows in international watershed



The U.S. Geological Survey has developed a method that will support its popular StreamStats application for the first time in a watershed shared by two countries.


The ability to use StreamStats in the Lake of the Woods-Rainy River Basin is one practical result of work to harmonize hydrographic data between agencies in Canada and the United States that has been facilitated by the International Joint Commission.


The binational study updated statistical equations that are used to estimate the magnitude and frequency of peak flows on streams in Manitoba, Ontario and Minnesota within the binational Lake of the Woods–Rainy River Basin.


The effort represents a significant milestone in addressing binational water management objectives and providing timely information to practitioners on both sides of the border for sound planning and monitoring activities. Hydraulic engineers use peak streamflow data to inform designs of bridges, culverts, and dams, and water managers use peak streamflow data to inform regulation and planning activities.


The study will contribute to future international water management efforts, including models used to assess water quality impacts and regulate water levels in the basin. The results have pushed the yardstick further in pursuit of binational scientific collaboration.


The binational study was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the International Joint Commission and the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry provided support for the project and assisted with the collection of streamflow data in Canada.


All equations presented in this study have been incorporated into StreamStats, a web-based geographic information system tool developed by the U.S. Geological Survey. StreamStats allows users to obtain streamflow statistics, basin characteristics, and other information for user-selected locations on streams through an interactive map.


Study results have been published in the report, Techniques for Estimating the Magnitude and Frequency of Peak Flows on Small Streams in the Binational U.S. and Canadian Lake of the Woods–Rainy River Basin Upstream from Kenora, Ontario, Canada, Based on Data through Water Year 2013.





Peter McCarthy

National StreamStats Coordinator            406-457-5934

U.S. Geological Survey                     


John Walker

Upper Midwest Water Science Center     612-499-6971                 

U.S. Geological Survey                     


Michael Laitta                                             202-736-9022                             

International Joint Commission       


Wayne Jenkinson                                        613-995-9626

International Joint Commission