Chapter 3: Section 5 - Low-Gradient Streams

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In this section you will find materials that support the implementation of EarthComm, Section 5: Low-Gradient Streams.

Learning Outcomes

  • Use a model to describe the characteristics of low-gradient streams.
  • Analyze data for a low-gradient stream in your community to explain the characteristics of its channel, floodplain, and streamflow.
  • Obtain information about potential hazards posed by low-gradient streams.


  1. To find data on the discharge of rivers in the United States , visit the following web site:

    Real-Time Water Data for the Nation, USGS
    Identify your local river and find data on its discharge, drainage basin area, and stream velocity.

Inquiring Further

  1. To learn more about the floods of 1993, 1997, 2001, and to the present day, visit the following web sites:

    The Great USA Flood of 1993, NOAA
    Describes the causes and damage that resulted from the 1993 midwest flood.

    The Great Flood of 1993 on the Upper Mississippi River—10 Years Later, USGS
    Provides data on The Great Flood of 1993.

    Red River of the North Flooding – 1997, USGS
    Describes the flow conditions and effects from flooding of the Red River of the North in 1997.

    April 2001 Mississippi Flood - Spring Snowmelt, NOAA
    Provides information on the flooding conditions on the upper Mississippi River basin in 2001.

To learn more about the floods from 2001 onwards

U.S. Billion Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters, NOAA
Learn about a selection of 230 major weather and climate disasters since 1980, including flooding, where damages exceeded $1 billion.

Sept 2013 Historic Rainfall Floods Colorado, NOAA
In three days of high rainfall, authorities had confirmed six deaths, and more than 1,000 people remained missing in Colorado.

June 2014 floods in South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa , USGS
High rainfall and severe flooding: a state of emergency declared in South Dakota and in Iowa.

May 2015 Floods in Texas and Oklahoma, NOAA
Learn about how a single storm broke new records for the 1-in-25, -50, -100, even -1000 year events.

August 2016 Louisiana Floods, USGS
Rainfall exceeding 30 inches in Louisiana resulted in record flooding exceeding in $8 billion in damages.

April/May 2017 Record Flooding Swamps Parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, The Weather Channel
Provides information on flooding in the midwest and southern U.S.


To learn more about this topic, visit the following web sites:

Meandering Streams

Pictures of Meandering Streams, Oregon State University
Examples of meandering streams around America.

Riverbed Model Works like the Real Thing, ScienceMag
Learn how scientists at UC Berkeley were the first to build a scaled down meandering stream. A 30 hours simluation represented 5 to 7 years of real time.

Streams and the Hydrologic Cycle

Earth's Water: Groundwater, USGS
Describes how water gets into the ground.  Also explains what an aquifer is and who uses ground water.  Provides information on how water is taken out of the ground.

The Hydrologic Cycle and Interactions  of Ground Water and Surface Water, USGS
Provides information about ground water and surface water interactions.

Hazards: Floods on Low-Gradient Streams

Causes of Floods, Tulane Univ.
Floods have been occurring throughout Earth history.  Find out what causes them.

Options for State Flood Control Policies and a Flood Control Program, Vermont Agency of Natural Resources
This report serves as an example of how one state prepares for floods.