Mitigating the Effects of Landscape Development on Streams in Urbanizing Watersheds


  • Paper No. JAWRA-12-0200-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA).
  • Discussions are open until six months from print publication.


This collaborative study examined urbanization and impacts on area streams while using the best available sediment and erosion control (S&EC) practices in developing watersheds in Maryland, United States. During conversion of the agricultural and forested watersheds to urban land use, land surface topography was graded and vegetation was removed creating a high potential for sediment generation and release during storm events. The currently best available S&EC facilities were used during the development process to mitigate storm runoff water quality, quantity, and timing before entering area streams. Detailed Geographic Information System (GIS) maps were created to visualize changing land use and S&EC practices, five temporal collections of LiDAR (light detection and ranging) imagery were used to map the changing landscape topography, and streamflow, physical geomorphology, and habitat data were used to assess the ability of the S&EC facilities to protect receiving streams during development. Despite the use of the best available S&EC facilities, receiving streams experienced altered flow, geomorphology, and decreased biotic community health. These impacts on small streams during watershed development affect sediment and nutrient loads to larger downstream aquatic ecosystems such as the Chesapeake Bay.