SUMMARY OF HYDROLOGIC CONDITIONS

Climate

In North Dakota, normal annual precipitation ranges from about 14 inches in the northwestern part of the State to about 22 inches in the southeastern part of the State (Owenby, J.R., and Ezell, D.S., 1992, Monthly station normals of temperature, precipitation, and heating and cooling degree days, 1961-90, North Dakota: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina, Climatography of the United States, No. 81). Three-fourths of this precipitation occurs during April through September. The greatest normal monthly precipitation for the entire State occurs during June. Normal, as used in reference to meteorological data in this report, is a mean value for the reference period 1961 through 1990. Meteorological data were obtained from publications of the National Climatic Data Center (U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Climatic Data Center, 1999, 2000, Climatological data, North Dakota: Asheville, North Carolina, v. 108, no. 10-12, and v. 109, no. 1-9).

North Dakota is divided into nine climatological divisions (fig. 3). Precipitation during water year 2000 ranged from about 4.0 inches (25 percent) less than normal in the southwest division to about 3.3 inches (19 percent) greater than normal in the central division. A comparison of monthly precipitation for water year 2000 to normal monthly precipitation for 1961-90 for the nine climatological divisions in North Dakota is shown in figure 3. Data shown in figure 3 are means of monthly precipitation for reporting stations within each climatological division.

Precipitation was less than normal in all nine climatological divisions during October through January (fig. 3). Statewide monthly mean precipitation was about 0.8 inch (72 percent) less than normal during October, about 0.5 inch (90 percent) less than normal during November, and about 0.2 inch (48 and 45 percent) less than normal during December and January, respectively.

Precipitation was greater than normal in all nine climatological divisions during February. Statewide monthly mean precipitation was about 0.7 inch (169 percent) greater than normal, and total precipitation ranged from about 0.2 inch (41 percent) greater than normal in the northwest division to about 1.2 inches (274 percent) greater than normal in the east-central division. Total precipitation in the south-central division was about 1.1 inches (320 percent) greater than normal, and Bismarck set a new record for total precipitation for the month of February.

Statewide monthly mean precipitation during March was near normal, and total precipitation ranged from about 0.5 inch (69 percent) less than normal in the southwest division to about 0.8 inch (79 percent) greater than normal in the southeast division. The greatest total precipitation for the month, 2.27 inches, was recorded at two National Weather Service stations in the southeast division. According to the National Weather Service "Monthly Report of River and Flood Conditions" for March (written commun., 2000), "the snow cover in North Dakota was completely depleted by mid-month."

Statewide monthly mean precipitation during April was about 0.3 inch (20 percent) less than normal, and total precipitation ranged from about 0.8 inch (64 percent) less than normal in the northeast division to about 0.1 inch (4 percent) greater than normal in the west-central division. During May, statewide monthly mean precipitation was about 0.1 inch (5 percent) greater than normal, and total precipitation ranged from about 0.8 inch (36 percent) less than normal in the northeast division to about 1.2 inches (58 percent) greater than normal in the north-central division.

Figure 3. Comparison, by climatological division, of monthly precipitation, water year 2000, to normal monthly precipitation, 1961-90.

Comparison, by climatological division, of monthly precipitation,
         water year 2000, to normal monthly precipitation, 1961-90

During June, when statewide precipitation usually is greatest, seven of the nine climatological divisions reported greater-than-normal precipitation. Statewide monthly mean precipitation was about 1.2 inches (38 percent) greater than normal, and total precipitation ranged from about 0.9 inch (28 percent) less than normal in the southwest division to about 3.3 inches (101 percent) greater than normal in the east-central division. During July, statewide monthly mean precipitation was about 0.8 inch (35 percent) greater than normal. Only two of the nine climatological divisions reported less-than-normal precipitation.

Statewide monthly mean precipitation during August was about 0.4 inch (15 percent) greater than normal, and total precipitation ranged from about 1.1 inches (67 percent) less than normal in the southwest division to about 2.1 inches (79 and 98 percent) greater than normal in the northeast and central divisions, respectively. During September, eight of the nine climatological divisions reported less-than-normal precipitation. Statewide monthly mean precipitation was about 0.4 inch (27 percent) less than normal.

Temperatures during October were near normal statewide. November and December were particularly warm and had monthly mean temperatures that averaged about 10 F and about 12 F above normal, respectively.

Statewide average monthly temperatures during January were about 5 F above normal. February temperatures averaged about 22 F (8 F above normal), and March temperatures averaged about 35 F (9 F above normal). Temperatures during April were near normal statewide. The influence of temperatures on streamflow in North Dakota is diminished substantially after the snowpack has melted, and temperatures have little effect on streamflow from May through September.

Streamflow

The largest mean monthly discharge of North Dakota rivers generally is coincident with snowmelt runoff. Because above-freezing temperatures normally occur earlier in the southwestern part of the State than in the northeastern part of the State, snowmelt runoff usually begins first on the Missouri River tributaries in southwestern North Dakota and progresses from southwest to northeast across the State. Hydrographs of mean monthly discharge (fig. 4) for the period of record for selected streams within each of the climatological divisions verify this pattern. For example, the largest mean monthly discharges for the period of record for Bear Den Creek near Mandaree, which is in the west-central division, and for Cedar Creek near Haynes, which is in the southwest division, occur in March, whereas the largest mean monthly discharges for the remaining streamflow-gaging stations occur in April.

Although many inferences about hydrologic conditions in the State can be made from precipitation (fig. 3) and streamflow (fig. 4) data, sound hydrologic judgment should be used. Variability of rainfall intensity and distribution should be considered when making conclusions about hydrologic response to rainfall, especially for small basins. Problems also may occur because different reporting periods are used in figures 3 and 4. Normal monthly precipitation is computed using data for a 30-year period (1961-90), but mean monthly discharge is computed using data for the period of record at each streamflow-gaging station--55 years (1946-2000) in the case of Apple Creek near Menoken.

The entire State was moist at the beginning of the water year according to the National Weather Service "Weekly Palmer Drought Index Report" (written commun., 2000). Conditions were classified as extremely moist in the south-central, southeast, and north-central divisions and very moist in the northwest division. Although precipitation in those divisions was less than normal from October through January, base flow from representative streamflow-gaging stations, Apple Creek near Menoken, Wild Rice River near Abercrombie, Wintering River near Karlsruhe, and Des Lacs River at Foxholm, respectively (fig. 4), remained above the mean monthly discharge.

Spring breakup generally was a non-event because the unusually warm winter and less-than-normal precipitation resulted in less snow accumulation than normal. However, a late February rainstorm in the south-central division caused sudden runoff over frozen ground in the Apple Creek Basin. The peak discharge that occurred on Apple Creek on February 27 was the third highest peak for the 55-year period of record (table 1). The late February storm and continued greater-than-normal precipitation resulted in a monthly mean discharge for Apple Creek that was the highest on record for February and the fifth highest for March. Also, the Wild Rice River in the southeast division peaked in March, 1 month earlier than normal, because of above-normal temperatures and greater-than-normal precipitation. However, the March monthly mean discharge was less than the April mean monthly discharge, which is the highest for the Wild Rice River.

Continued greater-than-normal precipitation in the north-central division from May through August and in the central division from June through August sustained high flows through the end of the water year on the Wintering River and the James River, respectively. The July monthly mean discharges for both streamflow-gaging stations (fig. 4) were the highest for the year, and the July monthly mean for the Wintering River was the second highest for the 63-year period of record. The June, July, and September monthly means for the James River were the highest for the 33-year period of record, and the August monthly mean for that station was the second highest.

During June, two significant rainfall events occurred in the Red River Basin. On June 12 and 13, the Turtle River Basin in the northeast division received about 20 inches of precipitation from a relatively isolated storm. The peak discharge, 12,400 cubic feet per second, is a new peak of record and has a recurrence interval that exceeds the 100-year flood. On June 19 and 20, a four- to five-county area centered on Fargo in the east-central division received about 8 inches of precipitation. The peak discharge that occurred on the Rush River on June 21 was the seventh highest for the 54-year period of record (table 1), and the June monthly mean was the second highest for the period of record.

Figure 4. Comparison of monthly mean discharge during water year 2000 to mean monthly discharge for the period of record.

Comparison of monthly mean discharge during water year
         2000 to mean monthly discharge for the period of record

Annual mean discharges for nine selected streamflow-gaging stations for water years 1998, 1999, and 2000 are shown in table 1. Annual mean discharges for 2000 were less than annual mean discharges for 1999 at all nine stations and less than annual mean discharges for 1998 at six of the nine stations. Annual mean discharges for 2000 were greater than annual mean discharges for 1998 but less than annual mean discharges for 1999 at the remaining three stations (Apple Creek near Menoken, Wintering River near Karlsruhe, and James River near Grace City).

Table 1. Period-of-record mean and median annual discharges; annual mean discharges for water years 1998, 1999, and 2000; ranking of annual mean discharges for wateryears 1998, 1999, and 2000 in relation to highest annual mean discharges for the period of record; maximum instantaneous discharge for water year 2000; and ranking of maximum instantaneous discharge for water year 2000 in relation to highest annual maximum instantaneous discharge for the period of record at selected streamflow-gaging stations

[ft3/s, cubic feet per second]

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

             Period of record                 Annual mean discharge   Ranking of annual mean   Maximum instantaneous       Ranking of maximum
                                              for water year(ft3/s)   discharge from highest    discharge for 2000       instantaneous discharge
                                                                       for period of record         (ft3/s)            for 2000 from highest annual
___________________________________________   ____________________    _____________________                                 maximum instantaneous
                                                                                                                        discharge for period of record
  Number of    Mean annual    Median annual   1998    1999    2000    1998    1999     2000
  complete      discharge       discharge
 water years     (ft3/s)         (ft3/s)
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

                                                   06349500  Apple Creek near Menoken    
    55            44.3             24         48.1    179     126      16       3        4        3,500  Feb. 27                   3

                                                   06352000  Cedar Creek near Haynes
    50            34.1             28         26.2     33.4     6.29   27      16       41           30  Mar. 10                  50

                                                   06332515  Bear Den Creek near Mandaree
    34             6.36             5.6        1.72     8.95     .21   24       9       34           10  Feb. 25                  34

                                                   05116500  Des Lacs River at Foxholm
    57            28.6             16         15.4     93.8    13.2    30       3       34          295  July 4                   39

                                                   05120500  Wintering River near Karlsruhe
    63            16.0             12         18.0     82.0    28.3    20       1       11           99  May 12                   42

                                                   05090000  Park River at Grafton
    69            60.7             50        133       94.8     7.79    9      15       58          690  June 12                  47

                                                   05060500  Rush River at Amenia
    54            12.4              7.3       38.3     36.3    12.1     2       3       20        1,100  June 21                   7

                                                   05053000  Wild Rice River near Abercrombie
    68            97.3             41        437      267     141       2       7       19          676  July 8                   40

                                                   06468170  James River near Grace City
    32            53.6             34         72.0    150     135       8       3        4        1,510  July 15                  11
__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The Devils Lake Basin is a 3,810-square-mile closed basin adjacent to the headwaters of the Sheyenne River. Geologic evidence indicates that, in the past, water flowed from the Devils Lake Basin into the Sheyenne River. However, since 1867 when water levels of Devils Lake first were recorded, Devils Lake has not flowed into the Sheyenne River Basin and the level of the lake has varied greatly in response to wet and dry periods (fig. 5). From 1867 to 1940, the water level generally declined from a maximum of 1,438.4 feet above sea level in 1867 to a minimum of 1,400.9 feet above sea level in 1940. After 1940, the water level generally increased except during 1956-68 and 1987-93. The decline from 1987 to 1993 occurred as a result of a drought in the basin. From 1993 to 1999, the water level increased each year as a result of greater-than-normal precipitation and runoff in the basin. During 2000, for the first time since 1993, the maximum water level did not exceed the maximum from the previous year. In fact, in water year 2000, the maximum of 1,446.5 feet occurred on October 1 on the recession of the period-of-record maximum of 1,447.1 feet set on July 16, 1999. The lake receded to about 1,446.1 feet prior to the spring snowmelt and subsequent slow runoff into the lake. The summer peak was about 1,446.3 feet or about 0.8 foot less than in 1999.

As Devils Lake rises, the surface area increases and requires greater volumes of inflow for each incremental increase in elevation. For example, at an elevation of 1,422.4 feet (the lake level at the end of the 1987-92 drought), the surface area of the lake is about 44,000 acres, where as at an elevation of 1,447 feet, the surface area of the lake is about 124,000 acres.

Devils Lake did not flow over the divide into Stump Lake during the water year. The elevation of the divide is 1,447 feet (Todd Sando, North Dakota State Water Commission, oral commun., 2000).

Figure 5. Devils Lake water levels for the period of record and for water years 1993-2000.

Devils Lake water levels for the period of record and for water 
	years 1993-2000

Chemical Quality of Streamflow

Chemical quality of streamflow at any particular site is dependent upon many factors, including source of streamflow, composition of rocks over which water flows, location, and time of year; therefore, the quality of streamflow varies considerably across the State. Chemical quality of streamflow also is dependent upon the volume of streamflow. During periods of low flow, most of the flow is derived from ground-water inflow, which is mineralized, and the resulting streamflow has large dissolved-solids concentrations. During periods of high flow, most of the flow is derived from snowmelt or precipitation runoff, which is less mineralized, and the resulting streamflow has small dissolved-solids concentrations.

Five stations were selected to show the water-quality variability in rivers throughout the State. Specific conductance, an indicator of dissolved solids in water, is used to show the variability among these stations and among months at a given station. The mean, maximum, and minimum specific conductance for the period of record and the specific conductances measured during the 2000 water year for each station are shown in table 2.

Specific conductance is used as an indicator of the suitability of water for irrigation and other uses. The U.S. Salinity Laboratory (U.S. Salinity Laboratory Staff, 1954, Diagnosis and improvement of saline and alkali soils: U.S. Department of Agriculture Handbook 60, 160 p.) has developed an index using specific conductance as an indicator of salinity hazard for irrigation water. The salinity hazard and corresponding specific conductance are as follow:

________________________________________________________

Salinity         Specific conductance (microsiemens per
 hazard             centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius)
________________________________________________________

  Low                    Less than 250
 Medium                   250 to 750
  High                   750 to 2,250
Very high               2,250 to 5,000
________________________________________________________

In the United States, the Red River of the North drains all of eastern North Dakota, much of northwestern Minnesota, and a small part of northeastern South Dakota. Of the five stations listed in table 2, the Red River of the North at Grand Forks has the smallest mean specific-conductance values for each month. The smaller mean values are caused partly by more precipitation occurring in the Red River of the North Basin, especially in Minnesota, than in other parts of North Dakota. The salinity hazard of stream water for irrigation use during the irrigation season (April through October) was high in May and medium for the remaining months when measurements were made.

The Souris River upstream of Sherwood drains about 9,000 square miles of southeastern Saskatchewan, Canada, and a small part of northwestern North Dakota. Generally, the Souris River near Sherwood has larger specific-conductance values than the Red River of the North and the James River but smaller specific-conductance values than the Little Missouri River and the Cannonball River. The salinity hazard of stream water for irrigation use during the irrigation season (April through October) was high for the months when measurements were made.

The Little Missouri River drains parts of southwestern North Dakota, northwestern South Dakota, northeastern Wyoming, and southeastern Montana. New monthly maximums occurred in January, March, August, and September. The salinity hazard of stream water for irrigation use during the irrigation season (April through October) was high in June and very high for the remaining months when measurements were made.

The Cannonball River drains parts of southwestern North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota. The salinity hazard of stream water for irrigation use during the irrigation season (April through October) was very high in August and high for the remaining months when measurements were made.

The James River drains east-central North Dakota. Flow in the James River Basin is regulated by the Jamestown and Pipestem Reservoirs, which are used primarily for flood control. High flows from snowmelt and rainfall are stored in the reservoirs and released throughout the summer. Specific-conductance values generally are smallest from March through October during high flow or when the stored runoff water is released. The salinity hazard of stream water for irrigation use during the irrigation season (April through October) was high for the months when measurements were made.

Table 2. Statistical summary of specific-conductance values for the period of record and listing of measured specific-conductance values for water year 2000
[Specific-conductance values are in microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius; --, no data]

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                                   Water   Period
                   Oct     Nov     Dec     Jan     Feb     Mar     Apr     May     Jun     Jul     Aug     Sep     year      of
                                                                                                                   2000    record
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

05082500  Red River of the North at Grand Forks (period of record, water years 1949, 1956-2000)
Mean               519     617     634       598   577     501     461     568     551     501     515     505     638       530
Maximum            700     925     985     1,040   900     910     757     856     829     675     753     674     800     1,040
Minimum            399     440     468       275   400     305     200     325     348     280     266     340     391       200
Number of values    71      42      50        52    47      79     174      98      77      82      65      52       7       889
Measured values
for water year
2000               569     --      --      --      612     698     --      740     391     --      --      653     --        --
                                                                           800

05114000  Souris River near Sherwood (period of record, water years 1970, 1972-2000)
Mean               1,220   1,390   1,630   1,750   1,770   1,150     772     938   1,060   1,070   1,110   1,120   1,550   1,170
Maximum            2,240   2,460   2,230   2,770   2,920   3,500   2,510   2,460   1,530   1,640   1,700   1,350   2,060   3,500
Minimum              710     925   1,250   1,280     540     200     277     345     310     540     128     755     992     128
Number of values      34      34      14      24      29      48      67      33      36      34      41      21      16     414
Measured values
for water year
2000               1,260   1,260     --    1,610   1,550   1,300   1,460   1,450   1,530     992   1,810   1,960     --      --
                                           1,570           1,500                           1,480   2,060
                                                                                                   1,960
                                                                                                   
06337000  Little Missouri River near Watford City (period of record, water years 1972-2000)
Mean               2,040   2,020   2,840   2,500   1,390     942   1,480   1,730   1,640   1,680   1,700   1,860   2,540   1,730
Maximum            3,100   4,000   5,000  a3,600   3,020  a2,000   2,700   3,100   2,780   3,000  a2,550  a2,570   3,600   5,000
Minimum              720     740   1,730   1,290     640     400     515     780     750     695     682     900   2,000     400
Number of values      27      21      11      15      8       36      27      21      24      23      29      18       7     260
Measured values
for water year
2000               2,400     --    2,450   3,600     --    2,000     --      --    2,180     --    2,550   2,570     --      --

06354000  Cannonball River at Breien (period of record, water years 1950, 1971-2000)
Mean               1,620   2,060   2,550   2,430   2,730     874   1,240   1,760   1,530   1,510   1,450   1,660   2,130   1,700
Maximum            2,400   3,070   3,290   3,800   4,860   3,100   2,260   2,930   3,020   3,000   2,800   2,300   2,660   4,860
Minimum              650   1,600     284     680     190     190     300     481     288     440     500     730   1,190     190
Number of values      27      27      21      32      33      58      46      33      34      28      30      29       8     398
Measured values
for water year
2000               2,010   2,010   2,660     --    2,530   1,190   1,980   2,170     --      --    2,480     --      --      --

06470500  James River at LaMoure (period of record, water years 1957-2000)
Mean                 858     962   1,170   1,480   1,330     635     538     794     796     766     811     861   1,020     863
Maximum            1,210   1,300   1,550   2,590   1,780   1,350     940   1,210   1,180   1,280   1,180   1,210   1,110   2,590
Minimum              480     540     890     340     700     185     160     500     170     170     485     480     855     160
Number of values      37      25      12      32      19      42      51      34      31      24      31      28       6     367
Measured values
for water year
2000                 951   1,060     --      --      --    1,040     --    1,090   1,110     --      855     --      --      --
_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
aNew extreme value, maximum, occurred during water year 2000.

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