Summary of Approaches for Estimating Playa Lake Flooding

by Richard H. French,
Julianne J. Miller,
Khaldoon Al-Qudah,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2008: Ahupua'A


Playa, or terminal, lakes are common in semi- and arid environments; and their characteristic level, hard, and usually dry surfaces make them ideal for airports, as they are used in the southwestern United States, where understanding when playas are dry is essential for airfield operations. In contrast, when water is present on the lakebed, playa lakes provide habitat for migratory birds, and in the Middle East, playas have been used by both modern and ancient nomadic herders for a water supply of opportunity. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has provided no engineering guidance as to how to estimate the depth and duration of flooding on these lakebeds, whereas in the case of other flood hazard areas, FEMA has provided definite and specific guidance. This paper discusses the theoretical development of an innovative method using a watershed scale model based on variations of precipitation and temperature with elevation, soil types, vegetation types and densities, and land use. The model developed was used to estimate regulatory flood hazard on three of the playa lakes existing within the boundaries of Edwards Air Force Base, California, including Rosamond (Dry) Lake. In addition, remotely sensed data provided by the US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and precipitation data from the NOAA Western Regional Climate Center are presented to examine the frequency and duration of inundation of water on Rosamond Lake using remotely sensed data in the infrared bands. Another aspect of playas is their importance on a worldwide basis. In the northeastern desert of Jordan, playas (Qa's) influence surface hydrology and water supply management (water harvest). Here, the primary issue is not flooding, but understanding the hydrology to provide for sustainable development within the region, while maintaining the traditional herding lifestyle of the Bedouins.This is a summary paper that collects all results to date including unpublished data. In the United States, numerical modeling approaches have been used and the results published; whereas in the Jordanian studies, the approach was more empirical using data gathered from field experiments.

Subject Headings: Lakes | Floods | Federal government | Hydrologic data | Water supply | Information management | Weather forecasting | Field tests | United States | Middle East | California | Jordan | Asia

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