Frequently Asked Questions - Hydrologic Studies

Contact: Susi Greiner 517-284-5579

This FAQ page replaces the Hydrology blog.  The following is a summary of that blog plus new, relevant questions.

1.  Waterfall Information 
1.1  Locations 
1.2  Aerials 

2.  Hydrologic Methods/Information 
2.1  Methods the Hydrologic Studies program uses 
2.2  Drought flows and volumes 
2.3  Wetland hydrology 
2.4  Specific site information 
2.5  Regression 
2.6  Matching TR-20 to Michigan methodology 
2.7  Evaporation data 
2.8  Rational Method 
2.9  Water Budget Guidance 
2.10  Inconsistent Discharges 

3.  Hydraulic Information 
3.1  FIS model data 
3.2  HEC-2 model data 

4.  GIS Information 
4.1  CGI information 

5.  Streams, Lakes, and Ponds 
5.1  Grants 
5.2  Depths 
5.3  Dredging 
5.4  Sediment 
5.5  Storm Water responsibilities 



1.  Waterfall Information 

1.1  Where are Michigan's waterfalls?  (many questions)

Several links to Michigan waterfalls are:

There is also a book titled "A Guide to 199 Michigan Waterfalls."  You can find more by doing an Internet search for Michigan waterfalls.  (Dave Fongers, January 22, 2010)

1.2  How can I view aerial photos of Michigan waterfalls? (John Davis, October 23, 2006)

Aerial photography for all of Michigan can be downloaded by county from the Michigan Center for Geographic Information's Geographic Data Library (,4548,7-158-71454---,00.html).  Internet applications like Google maps, Bing Maps, or Google Earth will let you view aerial photography without the need to download the files and use a GIS viewer.  (Ric Sorrell, October 30, 2006)

2.  Hydrologic Methods/Information 

2.1  What method is currently employed by the State for furnishing flow rates when requested for a drain/stream?  (cak, January 17, 2006)

We use our modified SCS method and NRCS' Windows TR-55 program for small watersheds and the USGS regression method for larger ones.  Our SCS method can be downloaded from the Reports section of our web page,  The regression program is at and TR-55 is at  (Refer to question 2.6 also.)  If stream gage data are available, we will use a statistical frequency analysis of the annual maximum floods.  We use USGS' PEAKFQ program for the statistical analysis and it can be downloaded at  (Ric Sorrell, January 18, 2006)

2.2  What is my best resource for estimating 40-year drought runoff rates (for streams) and volumes (for lakes)?  (Bob Haneline, February 14, 2006)

Drought flows are computed by our unit. Marlio Lesmez is the drought flow contact and you can reach him at 517-284-5580 or use our on-line discharge request form.  (Ric Sorrell, February 15, 2006)

2.3  Can anyone tell me how hydrology works in a wetland?  (pclem2, April 24, 2006)

You can find a description of wetland hydrology in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's Wetland Delineation Manual.  A link to the manual and other wetland information is on the DEQ's Wetlands Protection page at  (Ric Sorrell, April 24, 2006)

2.4  Where can I get hydrologic data on a specific site?  (Ed Tieppo, June 02, 2006)

Flows calculated by the MDEQ's Hydrologic Studies staff are available at  A map of real-time USGS gage data for Michigan streams is at  All USGS gage data is available through  (Dave Fongers, June 05, 2006)

2.5  What are typical methods/resources one might use to calculate the rural regression component, "CHSWAP" (main-channel length percentage that passes through swamp, lake, or pond)?  (Ken R., November 02, 2006)

Topographic maps are most often used both to measure the main channel length and the percentage that passes through swamps and lakes.  If you use the paper maps, dividers are used to measure the respective lengths.  We do all of our measuring digitally using ArcView and its measuring tools.  (Ric Sorrell, November 06, 2006)

2.6  Is there a way to accurately predict runoff from Michigan watersheds using USDA TR-20 and match the results generated using the SCS-2003 spreadsheet methodology?  (November 22, 2006)

You can use TR-20 (and Win TR-55) to reproduce the Michigan SCS results, but you need to input the Michigan-specific dimensionless unit hydrograph ordinates into each program.  The triangular version of these ordinates are: 0.0, 0.5, 1.0, 0.8, 0.6, 0.4, 0.2, and 0.0.  (Ric Sorrell, November 27, 2006)

2.7  I am having a tough time finding evaporation data (longer term averages) for the Houghton Lake area.  Any suggestions?  (Eric, February 09, 2007)

NOAA Technical Report NWS 33 is an evaporation atlas for the U.S. This includes maps of evaporation from an open water body annually and seasonally.  The report and maps are online at  Note that you do need a plug-in that is available on the same web page.  (Ric Sorrell, February 09, 2007)

2.8  I'm working with Rational Method in different locations throughout Michigan.  Are the intensity factors (K and b) published somewhere by the MDEQ? I=K/t+b  (John Marsh, March 26, 2007)

The MDEQ does not use or recommend use of the rational method.  For very small watersheds, we use the NRCS Windows TR-55 method.  If you do use the rational method, it should be limited to the smallest of watersheds (<20 acres), preferably with one, single land use.  All of the methods we use are based on total rainfall, not intensity.  The rainfall values are in the NWS publication "Rainfall Frequency Atlas of the Midwest," Bulletin 71.  The PDF version of this report can be downloaded from  You can divide the rainfall by the duration for a specified frequency to convert depth of rainfall to an intensity.  (Ric Sorrell, March 27, 2007)

2.9  Your Water Budget Guidance mentions pan evaporation data available at the Hydrologic Studies Program.  Is this data online, or who should I contact to get it?  (bg, July 01, 2009)

There is a map (figure 2) on page 10 of the report ( for the May-Oct from an open water surface.  The total evaporation may be obtained from it.  Then the distribution (%) is given on page 3 of the same report.  The map is from the reference on page 9. For more information, contact the Hydrologic Studies Unit at 517-284-5567.  Also note that daily evaporation is available for many sites through the Michigan Automated Weather Network,  The report gives the procedure to convert PET data to Evaporation data on page 3.  (Dave Fongers, July 07, 2009)

2.10  I have been using the MDEQ Discharge Data Base and Drainage Area Ratio Method for determining flood discharges used in "Level Two" scour evaluations.  I have just encountered Culver Creek in Bay County.  The discharges provided for the Midland Road crossing (6.9 sq mi) are considerably larger than those given just downstream at N Union Rd (7.3 sq mi).  I realize that the methods of analysis are approximate but what is up with this?  Are the drainage basins normalized top to bottom somehow?  Your thoughts and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.  (Dan Krull, October 19, 2009)

I reviewed the peak flow estimates on Culver Creek.  I found a discrepancy in the time of concentration estimates for Midland Road and North Union Road that doesn't seem justified, given the proximity of the two sites.  These issues are typically addressed when a new discharge is estimated and compared to those previously reported.  I apologize for the oversight and thank you for bringing this to our attention.  I've updated the peak discharges for Culver Creek.  Please let me know if you have any additional questions.  (Linda Burke, October 20, 2009)

3.  Hydraulic Information 

3.1  Does MDEQ typically have hydraulic model data available for FIS studies in MI?  I'm looking for some old HEC-2 data (electronic or hard copy) to convert to RAS.  (craig, November 30, 2006)

See answer to 3.2.

3.2  Does MDEQ typically have FEMA HEC-2 files on record for use in creating duplicate hydraulic models on new projects?  (cak, December 04, 2006)

We scanned the hydraulic support data for FIS's several years ago, so we should at least have PDF copies of older HEC-2 runs for most of the state.  We only have the electronic files for the more recent studies.  If you want something in particular, please contact us.  (Ric Sorrell, December 04, 2006)  (Contact Mario Fusco)

4.  GIS Information 

4.1  Do you ever use the landuse delineations provided on DTMB's Center for Geographic Information's website (in ArcView), or do you typically do your own delineations?  (January 30, 2006)

We use the CGI landuse files because they are still our best available information.  We will use more up-to-date shapefiles if someone sends it to us, but that situation is rare.  More current data are usually tabulated on a countywide scale, and that information should be sent to CGI to include on the web site.  (Ric Sorrell January 31, 2006)

5.  Streams, Lakes, and Ponds 

5.1  Do you have any resources on grants that may be available to help a small inland lake up north return to it's former glory?  (February 02, 2006)

For inland lake grant information, I would start with the Inland Lakes Monitoring Program in the DEQ's Water Resources Division.  You can contact program staff at 517-284-5537.  (Ric Sorrell, February 15, 2006)

5.2  Can you tell me where I can find lake depths for inland lakes?  (Dan, April 26, 2006)

The DEQ has depth maps for many lakes at,4570,7-350-79119_79146_81198_85509---,00.html.  If the lake you want is not listed, you can contact the DEQ Inland Lakes Program at 517-284-5537 to see if they have other information.  (Dave Fongers, January 22, 2010)

Lake depths, "bathymetry" maps can also be found on selected lakes by doing a water body search on the Michigan Recreational Boating System (MRBIS).  Click on the bathymetry icon to see a PDF map of the lake.  The MRBIS web site can be found at  (Dave Forstat, July 27, 2006)

5.3  I have a pond that has been around for many years. I recently purchased this property and discovered that the pond has filled in over the years, as ponds do. Are there any programs that would assist a homeowner in digging out the pond to its previous depth?  (Art Harter, July 23, 2006)

You should contact one of our District Offices, since you may be required to obtain a permit to dredge the pond.  Please call our main office at 517-284-5567 and they can direct you to the proper District Office.  You can also find a telephone contact by clicking on the Land/Water Permit link on the Who To Contact web page.  (Ric Sorrell, July 24, 2006)

5.4  We have collected a sediment sample from a stream and found pesticides. Part 201 cleanup criteria don't seem applicable.  Are there published sediment action levels?  (dswitzer, November 29, 2006)

That program is in the DEQ Remediation and Redevelopment Division.  You can contact them at 517-284-5087-9837.  (Ric Sorrell, December 04, 2006)

5.5  I am looking for information on storm water responsibilities.  The local drain commission modified the culvert in front of my house and now my house has flooded twice causing serious damages.  The drain commissioner denies any responsibilities, and I need to get something done to fix the culvert properly and hopefully fix my property that was damaged and destroyed.  Any information or advice would be greatly appreciated.  (ASM, September 11, 2008)

Please contact the district staff person listed on the Land/Water Permit staff map on the Who To Contact web page or contact DEQ's Environmental Assistance Center at 800-662-9278.  (Dave Fongers, September 19, 2008)