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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Impacts of Impervious Surface on Watershed Hydrology: a Review

Authors
item Shuster, W - USEPA
item Bonta, James
item Thurston, H - USEPA
item Pappas, Elizabeth
item Smith, Douglas

Submitted to: Urban Water Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 24, 2005
Publication Date: December 31, 2005
Citation: Shuster, W.D., Bonta, J.V., Thurston, H., Warnemuende, E.A., Smith, D.R. 2005. Impacts of impervious surface on watershed hydrology: a review. Urban Water Journal. 2(4):263-275.

Interpretive Summary: As land becomes developed for urban and suburban uses, rooftops and pavement replace natural or farmed landscapes. Precipitation that falls on rooftops and pavement quickly runs off, instead of infiltrating into the soil as it would generally do in a natural or farmed landscape. This often results in flooding, increased soil erosion, and a decrease in water quality. Previous studies have been conducted in an attempt to characterize different urban surfaces and their impacts on the water cycle, but this literature is widely dispersed among many different disciplines. This paper examines several research methods and findings to further describe how various types of land development impact the environment. This paper will provide researchers and land use policy makers with information necessary to determine the impacts of existing structures and to develop management strategies that will decrease the flooding, erosion and decline in surface water quality associated with urban development. In this way, the paper will positively impact both urban hydrologic management and the off-site impacts to agricultural lands.

Technical Abstract: Increased impervious surface is a consequence of urbanization, with correspondent and signifcant effects on the hydrologic cycle. An increased proportion of impervious surface brings either a faster time of concentration (Toc), higher volume of runoff, higher peak flows in receiving waters, or all of these. Yet, comprehensive documentation establishing quantitative relationships between the extent and type of impervious area and these hydrologic factors remains dispersed across several disciplines. We present a literature review on this subject to better understand and synthesize distinctions among different types of impermeable surface and their contribution to urbanization, the manner in which these surfaces are assessed for the putative impacts on site hydrology and ecosystem function, and how these effects might be mitigated. We find that impervious surfaces have major impact on urban hydrologic function, and that the development of a uniform approach to characterization of impervious surfaces would facilitate advances in urban watershed management technology and urban best management practices.

Last Modified: 11/28/2014
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