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Keywords:

  • urban erosion;
  • geospatial analysis;
  • time series analysis;
  • land cover change;
  • sediment erosion calculation;
  • channel evolution

Abstract:  This study applies spatial analyses to examine the consequences of accelerated urban expansion on a hydrologic system over a period of 24 years. Three sets of historical aerial photos are used in a GIS analysis to document the geomorphic history of Las Vegas Wash, which drains the rapidly growing Las Vegas urban area in southern Nevada. New spatial techniques are introduced to make quantitative measurements of the erosion at three specific time intervals in the hydrologic evolution of the channel and floodplain. Unlike other erosion studies that use two different elevation surfaces to assess erosion, this study used a single elevation surface to remove systematic and nonsystemic elevation errors. The spatial analysis quantifies channel changes for discrete time periods, calculates erosion volumes, and provides a foundation to examine how the specific mechanisms related to urban expansion have affected Las Vegas Wash. The erosion calculated over 24 years is the largest documented sediment loss attributed to the effect of rapid urban growth.