Accuracy Assessments for Headwater Stream Maps in Western North Carolina

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Master of Natural Resources Professional Papers (North Carolina State University. College of Natural Resources)

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North Carolina State University. College of Natural Resources


Headwater streams are essential to downstream water quality, therefore it is important they are properly represented on maps used for stream regulation. Current maps used for stream regulation, such as the United States Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil survey maps, are outdated and do not accurately nor consistently depict headwater streams. In order for new stream maps to be used for regulatory purposes, the accuracy must be known and the maps must show streams with a consistent level of accuracy. This study assessed the valley presence/absence and stream length accuracy of the new stream maps created by the North Carolina Center for Geographic Analysis (CGIA) for western North Carolina. The CGIA stream map does not depict headwater streams with a consistent level of accuracy. This study also compared the accuracy of stream networks modeled using the computer software program, Terrain Analysis using Digital Elevation Models (TauDEM), to the CGIA stream map. The stream networks modeled in TauDEM, also do not consistently predict the location of headwater streams across the mountain region of the state. The location of headwater streams could not be accurately or consistently predicted by solely using aerial photography or elevation data. Other factors such as climate, soils, geology, land use, and vegetation cover should be considered to accurately and consistently model headwater stream networks.



headwater stream, CGIA