CE 397 Statistics in Water Resources

Spring 2009



INSTRUCTOR: David R. Maidment

Office: ECJ 8.612

Phone: Campus 471-4620, CRWR 471-0065

E-mail: maidment@mail.utexas.edu

OFFICE HOURS Tuesday and Thursday 2-4PM, ECJ 8.612 

LECTURES: Tuesday and Thursday, 12:30-2PM, ECJ 5.410

OBJECTIVES: This course is designed to present an advanced understanding of:

  The statistical characterization of water resources data

  Variation of statistical properties in space and time

  Analysis of water observations datasets

PREREQUISITES: CE 311S or an equivalent undergraduate course in statistical methods.

TEXT: Environmental Statistics by Vic Barnett, Wiley, Chichester England, 2004. This book can be obtained from Amazon.com or from Chips books at http://www.chipsbooks.com/envstat.htm

REFERENCES Statistical Methods in Water Resources, Techniques of Water Resources Investigations Book 4, Chapter A3, September 2002, by D.R. Helsel and R.M. Hirsch, which is available free of charge at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/twri/twri4a3/html/pdf_new.html This book can be printed at Fedex Kinkos on Medical Arts near campus by asking for the folder “Maidment”. The cost is about $50.

CLASS FORMAT: Lectures supplemented with outside reading, homework, and exams. 

CLASS OUTLINE: See attached. 

GRADING: Homework = 20%

Midterm Exam = 20%

Oral Term Project = 10%

Written Term Project = 30%

Final Exam = 20%


Grade Ranges will be assigned as follows:

95-100% A

90- 95% A-

87-90 B+

83-87 B

80-83 B-

77-80 C+

73-77 C

70-73 C-


If the class is taken Credit/No Credit, a grade of Credit will be assigned for a score of 80 or above.


Any problems, personal or otherwise, affecting grades should be brought to the instructor's attention. 


HOMEWORK POLICY Homework assignments are due in by 5PM on the day assigned. There is a box outside my door in ECJ 8.6 for turning in assignments after the class hour, if necessary. Homework must be done on clean paper, stapled in the top left corner, have your name in the top right corner, and your name, class and assignment number written on the outside when the homework is folded in half. 

EXAMINATIONS: There will be one 75 minute in class examination and a final examination. Each examination will be closed book, although you will be allowed a 1-page review sheet, and will be given on the date and time indicated. Missed examinations may be made up only if the reason for missing was illness or some other emergency.

EVALUATION: The University Measurement and Evaluation Center forms will be used during the last week of class to evaluate the course and the instructor. 

DISHONESTY: University procedures will be followed in dealing with cases of suspected scholastic dishonesty.

ATTENDANCE: Regular class attendance is expected in accordance with The University's General Information catalog and the College of Engineering policy (see the section on Attendance in the Undergraduate Catalog). 

IMPORTANT NOTE: The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic adjustments for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-4241 TDD or the College of Engineering Director of Students with Disabilities at 471-4321.

Term Project


The purposes of the term project are:


  1. To enable you to explore in-depth some aspect of statistics in water resources of personal interest to you.
  2. To provide experience in the formulation, execution and presentation of original research, including the proper documentation of a term project.
  3. To make an oral presentation and produce a report in html on the world wide web that will be informative to you and to your classmates.


The steps in carrying out the project are:


  1. Establish a web page. If you don't already have a personal web page, establish one as part of the UT personal webspace. See webspace.mht for more information on how to do this.
  2. Prepare a 1-page proposal in html on your website by Thurs Feb 19 specifying the objective of your project and outlining how you plan to go about executing it. Notify the instructor by email that your proposal is available and you will receive a response by email containing an assessment of the scope of work that you propose. After making any revisions in your proposal that seem necessary in the light of this assessment, this proposal defines the scope of your term project.
  3. Prepare a 2 page status report on your project to be posted on your website by Thurs March 26. You are expected to make some progress by mid-semester but the main effort on your term project in the later part of the course once you've learned more about the methods in the course.
  4. Present a final report orally in class near the end of the semester (you will have 10 -12 minutes for your presentation) and present your term paper in html on your web page by the last day of classes (Friday May 8). It is critical that you post your paper by this date because your classmates may need to read your paper in order to complete their final exam.


If you would like to work in a group to pursue a term project, that is fine, but you must carry out a particular section of the project on which you will present your oral and written report.



Key dates are shown in italics in the schedule below.








Tues Jan 20

Class rescheduled


Thurs Jan 22

Introduction to Statistics in Water Resources


Tues Jan 27

How do we visualize and characterize data?


Thurs Jan 29

How do we visualize and characterize data?


Tues Feb 3

How are data described by probability functions?


Thurs Feb 5

How are data described by probability functions?


Tues Feb 10

Is a dataset homogeneous?


Thurs Feb 12

Is a dataset homogeneous?


Tues Feb 17

How do we deal with correlation?


Thurs Feb 19

How do we deal with correlation?

Project proposal posted on your web site


Tues Feb 24

How do we deal with trends?


Thurs Feb 26

How do we deal with trends?


Tues Mar 3

How do we characterize diurnal and seasonal cycles?


Thurs Mar 5

How do we characterize diurnal and seasonal cycles?


Tues Mar 10

Review for Midterm Exam


Thurs Mar 12

Midterm exam


Spring Break!



Tues Mar 24

How are flow and water quality related?


Thurs Mar 26

How are flow and water quality related?

Project update posted on your web site


Tues Mar 31

How large are hydrologic extremes?


Thurs Apr 2

How large are hydrologic extremes?


Tues Apr 7

How do we statistically characterize patterns in space?


Thurs Apr 9

How do we statistically characterize patterns in space?


Tues Apr 14

How do we characterize patterns in space and time?


Thurs Apr 16

How do we characterize patterns in space and time?


Tues Apr 21

Statistical studies of Texas water resources (Will Asquith)


Thurs Apr 23

Statistical studies of Texas water resources (Will Asquith)


Tues Apr 28

Term Project presentations


Thurs Apr 30

Term Project presentations


Tues May 5

Term Project presentations


Thurs May 7

Course instructor evaluation, term project presentations, and review for the final exam



Key Question: How can we take large bodies of observational data and make inferences about their properties and interrelationships – in space, in time, and between one variable and another?


Topic Questions

1.      How do we visualize data and determine their statistical characteristics?

         Time series, maps, histograms, X-Y plots, Box and Whisker plots, parametric and non-parametric statistics.

2.      How do we describe a dataset by a probability distribution?

         Determining parameters, fitting distributions, regular and log distributions.

3.      Is a body of data statistically homogeneous?

         Is one subset of the data different from another?

4.      How do we deal with correlation?

         Of one variable with another? In time? In space?

5.      How do we deal with trends?

         Trends due to population growth.

6.      How do we deal with cyclical variations?

         Diurnal and seasonal cycles.

7.      What is the relationship between flow and water quality?

         Flow, concentration and load and their interrelationships.

8.      How do we characterize hydrologic extremes?

         Order statistics, frequency analysis

9.      How do we statistically characterize variations in space?

         Geostatistics, kriging, variograms

10.  How do we characterize spatial patterns that vary in time?

         Severe storms



The class is divided into groups to help deal with topics 2-10. What I would like each group to do is to research out computer methods that can be used by the class to deal with that question, a dataset that can be used to illustrate that question, and write a short exercise using the computer methods to do the data analysis. I would like to have this information in hand by the Tuesday of the week in which this question is to be addressed in class. Where possible, I would like to use Excel, SAS and ArcGIS as the computational systems in the class.