Hydrologic assessment of an urban variable source watershed in the northeast United States



[1] Effective control of nonpoint source contaminants in runoff from urbanized watersheds requires knowledge about the locations of runoff source areas under a variety of conditions. Physical monitoring of spatially variant processes, such as runoff production form variable source areas, is time-consuming and expensive. Thus modeling the processes may provide a valuable cost-effective alternative. In this paper we adapt and validate a variable source model for an urban watershed to predict areas of the landscape prone to elevated soil moisture levels and saturation excess runoff. We modified the soil moisture distribution and routing (SMDR) model to simulate hydrologic processes in an urban upstate New York watershed by considering the impact of impervious surfaces, hydraulic control structures (detention basins), and land use on the water balance. In our model, infiltration excess runoff from impervious surfaces infiltrates in the surrounding soils. Simulated and observed streamflow agreed well, and more importantly, the distribution of soil moisture levels and overland flow throughout the watershed were well predicted. Removing urban features from the model resulted in substantially lower peak stormflows than observed, and the base and interflows increased accordingly. Both modeled and measured distributed results indicated that the more urbanized areas of the study site had both higher soil moistures and runoff losses due to shallower soils, greater upslope contributing areas, and a larger area of impervious surfaces generating runoff. The model results helped identify processes that describe how urbanization impacts integrated and distributed hydrology, which provides useful information for targeted water quality management.