Subseasonal to seasonal streamflow forecasting in a semiarid watershed

Patrick D. Broxton, Willem J.D. van Leeuwen, Bohumil M. Svoma, James Walter, Joel A. Biederman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Operational streamflow forecasting is critically important to managers of river basins that supply water, hydropower, and flood protection. While seasonal water supply forecasts (WSFs) are important for long-term water resources planning operations, shorter term (e.g., 1–5 weeks) streamflow forecasts are critical for balancing water conservation with flood risk during wet periods. In this study, we designed a streamflow forecasting system with the water resources group at the Salt River Project (SRP), a provider of water and power to millions of customers in central Arizona (AZ), to provide streamflow forecasts for a diverse and operationally important set of watersheds in AZ. The forecast system uses machine learning to make seasonal WSFs, a rainfall–runoff model driven by ensemble meteorological forecasts to make 35-day streamflow forecasts, and an innovative approach to improve the WSFs based on the 35-day streamflow forecasts. This model integration allows for an assessment of the impact of different meteorological forecasts on WSFs, helping SRP to balance water conservation goals with shorter term flood risks. In addition, seasonal WSFs are improved in the early winter when they incorporate the 35-day streamflow predictions. Furthermore, these improvements are larger than when they incorporate 7-day streamflow predictions, demonstrating the value of using subseasonal to seasonal (S2S, >1–2 weeks) forecasts to improve seasonal WSFs in these watersheds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1493-1510
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • precipitation
  • snow hydrology
  • streamflow modeling
  • water supply forecasts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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