01 Aug 2023
 | 01 Aug 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Exploring the provenance of information across Canadian hydrometric stations: Implications for discharge estimation and uncertainty quantification

Shervan Gharari, Paul H. Whitfield, Alain Pietroniro, Jim Freer, Hongli Liu, and Martyn P. Clark

Abstract. Accurate discharge values play a critical role in water resource planning and management. However, it is common for users, modelers, and decision-makers to consider these values as true and deterministic, despite the subjective and uncertain nature of the estimation process. To address the issue, this study was conducted to identify the discharge estimation methods and associated uncertainties of hydrometric measurements in Canada. The study involved an exploration of multiple operating procedures for rating curve construction and discharge estimation across 1800 active Water Survey of Canada (WSC) hydrometric stations using an independent workflow. The first step involved understanding the discharge estimation process used by the WSC and the standard operating procedures (SOP) for inferring discharge from stage measurements. During the implementation of the workflow, it was observed that manual intervention and interpretation by hydrographers were required for time-series sequences labeled as "override" and/or "temporary shift". The workflow demonstrated that 67 % of existing records could be adequately recreated following the rating curve and temporary shift concept, while 33 % followed the other discharge estimation methods (override). Novel methods for discharge uncertainty estimation should be sought given the practices of override and temporary shift by the WSC. This study attempts to reconcile the significant issue of estimating uncertainty in published discharge values, particularly in the context of open science and Earth System modeling. By collaborating with the WSC, this research aims to improve the understanding of the processes used for discharge estimation and promote wider access to metadata and measurements for more accurate uncertainty quantification.

Shervan Gharari et al.

Status: open (until 02 Nov 2023)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • AC1: 'Visualization of rating curve temporary shift', Shervan Gharari, 22 Aug 2023 reply

Shervan Gharari et al.

Shervan Gharari et al.


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Short summary
This study provides insight into the practices that are incorporated into discharge estimation across the national Canadian hydrometric network operated by the Water Survey of Canada, WSC. The procedures used to estimate and correct discharge values are not always understood by end-users. Factors such as ice cover, and sedimentation limit the ability of accurate discharge estimation. Highlighting these challenges sheds light on difficulties in discharge estimation and associated uncertainty.