Drainage Basin

The size of the drainage basin is one of the most important parameters regardless of which method of hydrologic analysis is used. To determine the basin area, select the best available topographic map or maps which cover the entire area contributing surface runoff to the point of interest. Outline the area on the map or maps and determine the size in square meters, acres, or square miles (as appropriate for the specific equations), either by scaling or by using a planimeter. Sometimes drainage basins are small enough that they fit entirely on the CADD drawings for the project. In these cases the basin can be digitized on the CADD drawing and calculated by the computer. Any areas within the basin that are known to be non-contributing to surface runoff should be subtracted from the total drainage area.

The USGS has published two open-file reports titled, Drainage Area Data for Western Washington and Drainage Area Data for Eastern Washington. Copies of these reports can be obtained from the OSC Hydraulics Branch and the Regional Hydraulics Contacts. These reports list drainage areas for all streams in Washington where discharge measurements have been made. Drainage areas are also given for many other sites such as highway crossings, major stream confluences, and at the mouths of significant streams. These publications list a total of over 5,000 drainage areas and are a valuable time saver to the designer. The sites listed in these publications are usually medium sized and larger drainage basin areas. Small local drainage areas need to be determined from topographic maps as outlined above.