Trends in high, moderate, and low streamflow conditions from United States Geological Survey (USGS) gauging stations were evaluated for a period of 1951–2013 for 18 selected watersheds in South Dakota (SD) using a modified Mann-Kendall test. Rainfall trends from 21 rainfall observation stations located within 20-km of the streamflow gauging stations were also evaluated for the same study period. The concept of elasticity was used to examine sensitivity of streamflow to variation in rainfall and land cover (i.e.
, grassland) in the study watersheds. Results indicated significant increasing trends in seven of the studied streams (of which five are in the east and two are located in the west), nine with slight increasing trends, and two with decreasing trends for annual streamflow. About half of the streams exhibited significant increasing trends in low and moderate flow conditions compared to high flow conditions. Ten rainfall stations showed slight increasing trends and seven showed decreasing trends for annual rainfall. Streamflow elasticity analysis revealed that streamflow was highly influenced by rainfall across the state (five of eastern streams and seven of western streams). Based on this analysis, a 10% increase in annual rainfall would result in 11%–30% increase in annual streamflow in more than 60% of SD streams. While streamflow appears to be more sensitive to rainfall across the state, high sensitivity of streamflow to rapid decrease in grassland area was detected in two western watersheds. This study provides valuable insight into of the relationship between streamflow, climate, and grassland cover in SD and would support further research and stakeholder decision making about water resources.
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