Hydrologic Reference Stations

Station selection guidelines

The streamflow gauging stations contained in the Hydrologic Reference Stations allow identification of streamflow variability and trends, and are useful for providing long-term and seasonal prediction of water availability.

The station selection guidelines, developed by Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM 2010), outline the criteria for a streamflow gauging station to be added to the Hydrologic Reference Stations.

The Bureau applied these and the additional guidelines (update 2020) across all Australian streamflow gauging stations Turner et al. (2012), and as a result, selected the 467 stations currently contained in the Hydrologic Reference Stations. The Bureau intendeds to review the Hydrologic Reference Stations regularly and may add new stations that satisfy the station selection guidelines.

Applying the station selection guidelines is a four-staged process:

  1. Identify unregulated catchments with minimal land use change.
  2. Identify gauging stations with high quality streamflow observations and a long period of record (greater than 30 years).
  3. Ensure the distribution of streamflow reference stations is spatially representative of all hydro-climate regions in Australia.
  4. Consult with relevant agencies in each jurisdiction to review the application of the guidelines.

The aims and criteria of the station selection guidelines were then divided into four phases. These phases are detailed in the table below. For more information about the application of the guidelines please see Turner et al. (2012).

This image visualises the application of guidelines, across four important steps, to select a hydrologic reference station. The four phases, aim and criteria are described in the table below.

Aims and criteria for each of the four phases
Phase Aim Criteria applied to achieve aim
1 To collate a list of potential hydrologic reference stations
  1. Station is not clearly identifiable as a drain, weir or non-river site.
  2. No dams, weirs or irrigation infrastructure upstream.
  3. Long-term time-series (minimum of 1975 onwards).
  4. Minimum of fifteen years continuous data in each climate phase (dependent on series length)
2 Undertake stakeholder consultation to identify and understand impacts in upstream catchments that may impact on the quality of the streamflow reference stations
  1. Are there minimal farm dams in upstream catchment (capturing less than 10% of runoff)?
  2. Does the list provide adequate representation of reference stations located on un-impacted reaches in the region?
  3. Are there any reference stations that are not currently included but would be more relevant?
  4. What is an estimate of the volume of diversions occurring upstream of the selected reference station?
  5. What is the likelihood of the volume of diversions increasing in the future?
  6. Are there any regulatory structures upstream of the reference station?
  7. If a coastal region, is there any tidal influence on the reference station?
  8. Are there any point source discharges upstream of the selected reference station?
  9. Have there been any significant land use changes that would impact on catchment hydrology? Land use practices could include farm dams, clearing, forestry, urbanisation, fire and water resource development
  10. Are there any land use practices likely to increase in the future?
  11. Does the reference station have a particular importance, for example, water supply or ecological?
  12. What is the data quality of each reference station?
  13. Is the rating curve sensitive to all facets of the flow regime?
  14. Is there any uncertainty related to the streamflow series?
3 Quantify land use changes and hydrological quality of streamflow series
  1. Is there less than 10% land use change in the catchment upstream from the streamflow station
  2. Is there minimal missing data (less than 5% over the period).This condition was waived for some stations, because of either their importance or their enhancement in spatial representation.
  3. Is the rating curve sensitive to all facets of the flow regime?
  4. Maximum of 25% flow volume outside the gauging limits
  5. Maximum of 10% flow volume of infilled data
  6. Minimal data anomalies and unusual flow patterns
4 To identify climate region
  1. Modified Köppen climate classification region. See this explanation for more information.

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