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Keywords:

  • urban hydrogeology;
  • urban stream dryness;
  • transfer function model;
  • impulse response function;
  • Texas Hill Country

Abstract

This study examined the effect of urbanization on stream hydrology in hillslope watersheds. Ten streams (seven in hillslope and three in gentle slope watersheds) around Austin, Texas were selected for analysis. For each stream, we compared parameters of transfer function (TF) models estimated from daily rainfall and streamflow data collected in two study periods (October 1988–September 1992 and October 2004–September 2008) representing different degrees of watershed urbanization. As expected, the streams became more intermittent as the watersheds were more urbanized in all the study streams. However, the effect of urbanization on peakflow differs between hillslope and gentle slope watersheds. After watershed urbanization, peakflow increased in gentle slope watersheds, but decreased in hillslope watersheds. Based on the results of the TF models, we found that urbanization made stream not flashier but drier in hillslope watersheds. Overpumpage of aquifer has been recognized as a problem that leads to the stream dryness in the study area. However, the overpumpage alone cannot explain the differences in hydrological changes between the two types of watersheds. We attributed the reduced peakflow and stream dryness in the hillslope watersheds to land grading for construction forming stair-stepped or terraced landscape. Compared with natural hillslope, a stair-stepped landscape could infiltrate more stormwater by slowing down surface runoff on tread portions of the stair. Our findings suggest that a watershed management scheme should take into account local hydrogeologic conditions to mitigate the stream dryness resulting from urbanization in hillslope watersheds. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.