Contribution of In-Channel Processes to Sediment Yield of an Urbanizing Watershed1


  • Lisa M. Fraley,

    1. Respectively, Research Specialist (Fraley), Center for Watershed Protection (Lisa Fraley-McNeal), 8390 Main Street, 2nd Floor, Ellicott City, Maryland 21043
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  • Andrew J. Miller,

    1. Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Systems (Miller)
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  • Claire Welty

    1. Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Director, Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education (Welty), University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, Maryland
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  • 1

    Paper No. JAWRA-07-0164-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until six months from print publication



Abstract:  A study was conducted between September 2003 and September 2006 to obtain baseline sediment inventories and monitor sediment transport and storage along a 3.7 km length of the channel of Valley Creek within Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania. Valley Creek is a tributary of the Schuylkill River and drains an urbanizing 60.6 km2 watershed that currently has 18% impervious land cover. Numerous field methods were employed to measure the suspended sediment yield, longitudinal profile, cross-sections, banklines, and particle size distribution of the streambed. Suspended sediment yield for the watershed was measured at a USGS gage located just upstream of the park boundary between July 2004 and July 2005, the period corresponding to field surveys of bank erosion and channel change. The estimated suspended sediment yield of 95.7 t/km2/year is representative of a year with unusually high discharge, including a storm event that produced a peak of 78 m3/s, the second highest discharge on record for the USGS gage. Based on the median annual streamflow for the 24 years of record at the USGS gage from 1983 to 2006, the median annual sediment yield is estimated to be closer to 34 t/km2/year, considerably lower than median and mean values for other sites within the region. The mass of silt, clay, and fine sand derived from bank erosion along the 3.7 km study reach during the field survey period accounts for an estimated 2,340 t, equivalent to about 43% of the suspended sediment load. The mass of fine sediment stored in the bed along the study reach was estimated at 1,500 t, with about 330 t of net erosion during the study period. Although bank erosion appears to be a potentially dominant source of sediment by comparison with annual suspended sediment load, bed sediment storage and potential for remobilization is of the same order of magnitude as the mass of sediment derived from bank erosion.