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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Watershed Response to Urbanization
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  • Urban sprawl - in US between 1992 and 1997 conversion of 13.7 million acres of farmland to non agricultural use.
  • Approximately 50% of world’s population currently resides in urban areas (in the US this is 81%).
  • Increased coverage of impervious areas linked to localized flooding and degraded water supplies.
  • Urban construction site erosion, fuel spills, oil leaks, lawn chemicals, all contribute to water pollution.


  • Quantify the water quality impacts of urbanization and develop mitigating practices.


  • Compare and contrast the water quality signatures from watersheds possessing different levels of agricultural and urban landuse.


  • Hydrology and water quality samples are collected from watersheds each having different levels of agricultural, urban, and wooded landuse.


  • 5-years of hydrology and water quality data have been collected from multiple subwatersheds of UBWC possessing varying amounts of urban, agricultural, and wooded landuse.


  • Capture the watershed water quality changes stemming from conversion of agricultural land to urbanization.


  • Collect hydrology and water quality data from a subwatershed within UBWC watershed that is currently being converted from an agricultural watershed to urban golf course community.


  • 5 years of water quality and hydrology data collected in a subwatershed of UBWC.
  • Particular watershed is undergoing transition from agricultural landuse to urban/turf landuse.
  • Golf course is currently operational and plans have been approved for housing development.


  • Relate hydrology and water quality findings to impervious areas within identified subwatersheds of UBWC.


  • Utilize aerial imagery to develop temporal impervious indices and relate those indices to measured hydrology and water quality.


  • Impervious areas from aerial imagery in 1994, 2006, and 2008 have been quantified for select subwatersheds within UBWC.


Last Modified: 6/9/2009
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