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WWRC 84-11
Determination of Regional Relationship between Snowcover and Annual Runoff

Introduction and Relevance of Project

Variations in annual runoff are a critical concern to agriculture, urban water districts, utility companies and many other resource management agencies. In Wyoming, the snowpack that accumulates in mountain areas during the winter contributes substantially to the annual runoff. Accurate estimates of the amount of water held in snowpack are essential to proper management of water and water-related resources.

Traditionally, snowpack has been monitored by selected, on-site, recording stations and periodic snowpack sampling. These techniques have been proven effective, but are subject to limitations with regard to accuracy and practicality. Recent research has demonstrated that the traditional techniques can be effectively augmented by using the periodic coverage of LANDSAT to monitor the build-up and depletion of the annual snowpack in each drainage basin (Hannaford, 1975; Rango and Salomonson, 1975; Thompson, 1975; and Washicheck and Mikesell, 1975); but, to use the satellite data effectively, estimates of area of snowpack and ground measurements must be correlated for a period of several years in order to establish a characteristic snowmelt/runoff relationship for each watershed. Once these relationships are known, accurate estimates of expected runoff can be made using the repetitive satellite coverage provided by LANDSAT. It was the purpose of this project to determine the requisite relationship between snowcover (as recorded by the satellite) and runoff (as recorded by ground stations) in each drainage basin.

This project was begun in 1983 and was supported by the USDI/OWP program through the Wyoming Water Research Center. It has been extended for its 1984-1984 project period with continued support of WWRC and USDA/USGS. Consequently, this report represents a summary of the first year's progress.

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