3
Hydrologic, Geomorphic, and Biological Effects of Urbanization on Watersheds

A watershed is defined as the contributing drainage area connected to an outlet or waterbody of interest, for example a stream or river reach, lake, reservoir, or estuary. Watershed structure and composition include both naturally formed and constructed drainage networks, and both undisturbed areas and human dominated landscape elements. Therefore, the watershed is a natural geographic unit to address the cumulative impacts of urban stormwater. Urbanization has affected change to natural systems that tends to occur in the following sequence. First, land use and land cover are altered as vegetation and topsoil are removed to make way for agriculture or subsequently buildings, roads, and other urban infrastructure. These changes, and the introduction of a built drainage network, alter the hydrology of the local area, such that receiving waters in the affected watershed can experience radically different flow regimes than they did prior to urbanization. This altered hydrology, when combined with the introduction of pollutant sources that accompany urbanization (such as people, domesticated animals, industries, etc.), has led to water quality degradation of many urban streams.

This chapter first discusses the typical land-use and land-cover composition of urbanized watersheds. This is followed by a description of changes to the hydrologic and geomorphic framework of the watershed that result from urbanization, including altered runoff, streamflow mass transport, and stream-channel stability. The chapter then discusses the characteristics of stormwater runoff, including its quantity and quality from different land covers, as well as the characteristics of dry weather runoff. Finally, the effects of urbanization on aquatic ecosystems and human health are explored.

LAND-USE CHANGES

Land use has been described as the human modification of the natural environment into the built environment, such as fields, pastures, and settlements. Important characteristics of different land uses are the modified surface characteristics of the land and the activities that take place within that land use. From a stormwater viewpoint, land uses are usually differentiated by building density and comprised of residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, recreational, and open-space land uses, among others. Each of these land uses usually has distinct activities taking place within it that affect runoff quality. In addition, each land use is comprised of various amounts of surface land cover, such as roofs, roads, parking areas, and landscaped areas. The amount and type of each cover also affect the quality and quantity of runoff from urban areas. Changes in land use and in the land covers within the land uses associated with develop-



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3 Hydrologic, Geomorphic, and Biological Effects of Urbanization on Watersheds A watershed is defined as the contributing drainage area connected to an outlet or waterbody of interest, for example a stream or river reach, lake, reser- voir, or estuary. Watershed structure and composition include both naturally formed and constructed drainage networks, and both undisturbed areas and hu- man dominated landscape elements. Therefore, the watershed is a natural geo- graphic unit to address the cumulative impacts of urban stormwater. Urbaniza- tion has affected change to natural systems that tends to occur in the following sequence. First, land use and land cover are altered as vegetation and topsoil are removed to make way for agriculture or subsequently buildings, roads, and other urban infrastructure. These changes, and the introduction of a built drainage network, alter the hydrology of the local area, such that receiving waters in the affected watershed can experience radically different flow regimes than they did prior to urbanization. This altered hydrology, when combined with the introduc- tion of pollutant sources that accompany urbanization (such as people, domesti- cated animals, industries, etc.), has led to water quality degradation of many urban streams. This chapter first discusses the typical land-use and land-cover composition of urbanized watersheds. This is followed by a description of changes to the hydrologic and geomorphic framework of the watershed that result from urbani- zation, including altered runoff, streamflow mass transport, and stream-channel stability. The chapter then discusses the characteristics of stormwater runoff, including its quantity and quality from different land covers, as well as the char- acteristics of dry weather runoff. Finally, the effects of urbanization on aquatic ecosystems and human health are explored. LAND-USE CHANGES Land use has been described as the human modification of the natural environment into the built environment, such as fields, pastures, and settlements. Important characteristics of different land uses are the modified surface charac- teristics of the land and the activities that take place within that land use. From a stormwater viewpoint, land uses are usually differentiated by building density and comprised of residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, recreational, and open-space land uses, among others. Each of these land uses usually has distinct activities taking place within it that affect runoff quality. In addition, each land use is comprised of various amounts of surface land cover, such as roofs, roads, parking areas, and landscaped areas. The amount and type of each cover also affect the quality and quantity of runoff from urban areas. Changes in land use and in the land covers within the land uses associated with develop- 129

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130 URBAN STORMWATER MANAGEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES ment and redevelopment are therefore important considerations when studying local receiving water problems, the sources of these problems within the water- shed, and the stormwater control opportunities. Land-Use Definitions Although there can be many classifications of residential land use, a crude and common categorization is to differentiate by density. High-density residen- tial land use refers to urban single-family housing at a density of greater than 6 units per acre, including the house, driveway, yards, sidewalks, and streets. Me- dium density is between 2 and 6 units per acre, while low density refers to areas where the density is 0.7 to 2 units per acre. Another significant residential land use is multiple-family housing for three or more families and from one to three stories in height. These units may be adjoined up-and-down, side-by-side, or front-and-rear. There are a variety of commercial land uses common in the United States. The strip commercial area includes those buildings for which the primary func- tion is the sale of goods or services. This category includes some institutional lands found in commercial strips, such as post offices, court houses, and fire and police stations. This category does not include warehouses or buildings used for the manufacture of goods. Shopping centers are another common commercial area and have the unique distinction that the related parking lot that surrounds the buildings is at least 2.5 times the area of the building roof area. Office parks are a land use on which non-retail business takes place. The buildings are usu- ally multi-storied and surrounded by larger areas of lawn and other landscaping. Finally, downtown central business districts are highly impervious areas of commercial and institutional land use. Industrial areas can be differentiated by the intensity of the industry. For example, “manufacturing industrial” is a land use that encompasses those build- ings and premises that are devoted to the manufacture of products, with many of the operations conducted outside, such as power plants, steel mills, and cement plants. Institutional areas include a variety of buildings, for example schools, churches, and hospitals and other medical facilities that provide patient over- night care. Roads constitute a very important land use in terms of pollutant contribu- tions. The “freeway” land use includes limited-access highways and the inter- change areas, including any vegetated rights-of-ways. Finally, there are a vari- ety of open-space categories, such as cemeteries, parks, and undeveloped land. Parks include outdoor recreational areas such as municipal playgrounds, botani- cal gardens, arboretums, golf courses, and natural areas. Undeveloped lands are private or publicly owned with no structures and have a complete vegetative cover. This includes vacant lots, transformer stations, radio and TV transmis- sion areas, water towers, and railroad rights-of-way. The preceding land-use descriptions are the traditional categories that make

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EFFECTS OF URBANIZATION ON WATERSHEDS 131 up the vast majority of the land in U.S. cities. However, there are emerging categories of land use, such as those espoused under the term New Urbanism, which combine several area types (such as commercial and high-density residen- tial areas). Although land use can be broadly and generally categorized, local variations can be extremely important such that locally available land-use data and definitions should always be used. For example, local planning agencies typically do not separate the medium-density residential areas into subcatego- ries. However, this may be necessary to represent different development trends that have occurred with time, and to represent newly emerging types of land uses for an area. Box 3-1 discusses the subtle influence that tree canopy could have on the residential land-use classification. Trends in Urbanization Researchers at Columbia University (de Sherbinin, 2002) state that 83 per- cent of the Earth’s land surface has been affected by human settlements and ac- tivities, with the urbanized areas comprising about 4 percent of the total land use of the world. Urban areas are expanding world-wide, especially in developing countries. The United Nations Population Division estimates suggest that the BOX 3-1 The Role of Tree Cover in Residential Land Use Figure 3-1 shows two medium-density residential neighborhoods, one older and one newer. Tree canopy is obviously different in each case, and it may have an effect on sea- sonal organic debris in an area and possibly on nutrient loads (although nutrient discharges appear to be more related to homeowner fertilizer applications). Increased tree canopy cover also has a theoretical benefit in reducing runoff quantities due to increased intercep- tion losses. In both cases, however, monitoring data to quantify these benefits are sparse. Xiao (1998) examined the effect urban tree cover had on the rainfall volume striking the ground in Sacramento, California. The results indicated that the type of tree or type of canopy cover affected the amount of rainfall reduction measured during a rain event, such that large broad-leafed evergreens and conifers reduced the rainfall that reached the ground by 36 percent, while medium-sized conifers and deciduous trees reduced the rain- fall by 18 percent. Cochran (2008) compared the volume and intensity of rain that reached the ground in an open area (no canopy cover) versus two areas with intact canopy covers in Shelby County, Alabama, over a year. The sites were sufficiently close to each other to assume that the rainfall characteristics were the same in terms of the intensity and the variation of intensity and volume during the storm. Rainfall “throughfall” was reduced by about 13.5 percent during the spring and summer months when heavily wooded cover existed. The rainfall characteristics at the leafless tree sites (winter deciduous trees) were not significantly different from the parking lot control sites. In many locations around the county, very high winds are associated with severe storms, significantly decreasing the interception losses. Of course, mature trees are known to provide other benefits in urban areas, including shading to counteract stormwater temperature increases and massive root systems that help restore beneficial soil structure conditions. Additional research is needed to quantify the benefits of urban trees through a comprehensive monitoring program. continues next page

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132 URBAN STORMWATER MANAGEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES BOX 3-1 Continued FIGURE 3-1 Two medium-density residential areas (no alleys); the area below is older. SOURCE: Robert Pitt, University of Alabama.

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EFFECTS OF URBANIZATION ON WATERSHEDS 133 world’s population will become mostly urbanized by 2010, whereas only 37 percent of the world’s population was urbanized in 1970. De Sherbinin (2002) concludes that although the extent of urban areas is not large when compared with other land uses (such as agriculture or forestry) their environmental impact is significant. Population densities in the cities are large, and their political, cultural, and economic influence is great. Most industrial activity is also located near cities. The influence of urban areas extends beyond their boundaries due to the need for large amounts of land for food and energy production, to generate raw materials for industry, for building water supplies, for obtaining other re- sources such as construction materials, and for recreational areas. One study estimated that the cities of Baltic Europe require from 500 to more than 1,000 times the urbanized land area (in the form of forests, agricultural, marine, and wetland areas) to supply their resources and to provide for waste disposal (de Sherbinin, 2002). Currently, considerable effort is being spent investigating land-use changes world-wide and in the United States in support of global climate change re- search. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS, 1999) has prepared many research reports describing these changes; Figure 3-2 shows the results for one study in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas, and Figure 3-3 shows the results for a study in the Chesapeake Bay area. These maps graphically show the dramatic rate of change in land use in these areas. The very large growth in urban areas during the 20 years between 1975 and 1995 is especially astonishing. By 1995, Mil- waukee and Chicago’s urbanized areas more than doubled in size from prior years. Even more rapid growth has occurred in the Washington, D.C.– Baltimore area. FIGURE 3-2 The extent of urban land in Chicago and Milwaukee in 1955 (black), 1975 (medium gray), and 1995 (light gray). SOURCE: USGS (1999).

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134 FIGURE 3-3 This series of maps compares changes in urban, agricultural, and forested lands in the Patuxent River watershed over the past 140 years. The top series shows the extent of urban areas (black) along with agriculture (gray), which was at its peak in the mid- to late 1800s. The bottom series show that urban (black) and forested land (gray) have increased since 1900. SOURCE: USGS (1999). URBAN STORMWATER MANAGEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES

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EFFECTS OF URBANIZATION ON WATERSHEDS 135 Many different metrics can be used to measure the rate of urbanization in the United States, including the number of housing starts and permits and the level of new U.S. development. The latter is tracked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Resources Inventory (USDA, 2000). The in- ventory, conducted every five years, covers all non-federal lands in the United States, which is 75 percent of the U.S. total land area. The inventory uses land- use information from about 800,000 statistically selected locations. From 1992 to 1997, about 2.2 million acres per year were converted from non-developed to developed status. According to the USDA (2000), the per capita developed land use (acres per person, a classical measure of urban sprawl) has increased in the United States between the years of 1982 and 1997 from about 0.43 to about 0.49 acres per person. The smallest amount of developed land used per person was for New York and Hawaii (0.15 acres), while the largest land consumption rate was for North Dakota, at about 10 times greater. Surprisingly, Los Angeles is the densest urban area in the country at 0.11 acres per person. The amount of urban sprawl is also directly proportionate to the population growth. According to Beck et al. (2003): In the 16 cities that grew in population by 10 percent or less between 1970 and 1990 (but whose population did not decline), developed area expanded 38 percent—more than in cities that de- clined in population but considerably less than in the cities where population increased more dramatically. Cities that grew in popu- lation by between 10 and 30 percent sprawled 54 percent on aver- age. Cities that grew between 31 and 50 percent sprawled 72 per- cent on average. Cities that grew in population by more than 50 percent sprawled on average 112 percent. These findings confirm the common sense, but often unacknowledged proposition, that there is a strong positive relationship between sprawl and popula- tion growth. In most areas, the per capita use of developed land has increased, along with the population growth. However, even some cities that had no population growth or had negative growth, such as Detroit, still had large amounts of sprawl (increased amounts of developed land used per person), but usually much less than cities that had large population growth. Los Angeles actually had an 8 percent decreased rate of land consumption per resident during this period, but the city still experienced tremendous growth in land area due to its very large population growth. The additional 3.1 million residents in the Los Angeles area during this time resulted in the development of almost an additional 400 square miles. Land-Cover Characteristics in Urban Areas As an area urbanizes, the land cover changes from pre-existing rural sur-

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136 URBAN STORMWATER MANAGEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES faces, such as agricultural fields or forests, to a combination of different surface types. In municipal areas, land cover can be separated into various common categories—pictured and described in Box 3-2—that include roofs, roads, park- ing areas, storage areas, other paved areas, and landscaped or undeveloped ar- eas. Most attention is given to impervious cover, which can be easily quantified for different types of land development. Given the many types of land cover described in Box 3-2, impervious cover is composed of two principal compo- nents: building rooftops and the transportation system (roads, driveways, and parking lots). Compacted soils and unpaved parking areas and driveways also have “impervious” characteristics in that they severely hinder the infiltration of water, although they are not composed of pavement or roofing material. In terms of total impervious area, the transportation component often exceeds the rooftop component (Schueler, 1994). For example, in Olympia, Washington, where 11 residential multifamily and commercial areas were analyzed in detail, the areas associated with transportation-related uses comprised 63 to 70 percent of the total impervious cover (Wells, 1995). A significant portion of these im- pervious areas—mainly parking lots, driveways, and road shoulders— experience only minimal traffic activity. Most retail parking lots are sized to accommodate peak parking usage, which occurs only occasionally during the peak holiday shopping season, leaving most of the area unused for a majority of the time. On the other hand, many business and school parking areas are used to their full capacity nearly every work day and during the school year. Other dif- ferences at parking areas relate to the turnover of parking during the day. Parked vehicles in business and school lots are mostly stationary throughout the work and school hours. The lighter traffic in these areas results in less vehicle- associated pollutant deposition and less surface wear in comparison to the greater parking turnover and larger traffic volumes in retail areas (Brattebo and Booth, 2003). As described in Box 1-1, impervious cover is broken down into two main categories: directly connected impervious areas (or effective impervious area) and non-directly connected (disconnected) impervious areas (Sutherland, 2000; Gregory et al., 2005) (although it is recognized that these two states are end- members of a range of conditions). Directly connected impervious area includes impervious surfaces which drain directly to the sealed drainage system without flowing appreciable distances over pervious surfaces (usually a flow length of less than 5 to 20 feet over pervious surfaces, depending on soil and slope charac- teristics and the amount of runoff). Those areas are the most important compo- nent of stormwater runoff quantity and quality problems. Approximately 80 percent of directly connected impervious areas are associated with vehicle use such as streets, driveways, and parking (Heaney, 2000). Values of imperviousness can vary significantly according to the method used to estimate the impervious cover. In a detailed analysis of urban impervi- ousness in Boulder, Colorado, Lee and Heaney (2003) found that hydrologic modeling of the study area resulted in large variations (265 percent difference)

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EFFECTS OF URBANIZATION ON WATERSHEDS 137 BOX 3-2 Land Cover in Urban Areas For any given land use, there is a range of land covers that are typical. Common land covers are described below, along with some indication of their contribution to stormwater runoff and their pollutant-generating ability. Roofs. These are usually either flat or pitched, as both have significantly different runoff responses. Flat roofs can have about 5 to 10 mm of detention storage while pitched roofs have very little detention storage. Roofing materials are also usually quite different for these types of roofs, further affecting runoff quality. In addition, roof flashing and roof gutters may be major sources of heavy metals if made of galvanized metal or copper. Di- rectly connected roofs have their roof drains efficiently connected to the drainage system, such as direct connections to the storm drainage itself or draining to driveways that lead to the drainage system. These directly connected roofs have much more of their runoff wa- ters reaching the receiving waters than do partially connected roofs, which drain to pervious areas. A directly connected roof drain A disconnected roof drain (drains to pervi- ous area) Parking Areas. These can be asphalt or concrete paved (impervious surface) or un- paved (traditionally considered a pervious surface) and are either directly connected or drain to adjacent pervious areas. Areas that have rapid turnover of parked cars throughout the day likely have greater levels of contamination due to the frequent starting of the vehi- cles, an expected major source of pavement pollutants. Unpaved parking areas actually should be considered impervious surfaces, as the compacted surface does not allow any infiltration of runoff. Besides automobile activity in the parking areas, other associated activities contribute to contamination. For example, parked cars in disrepair awaiting ser- vice can contribute to parking area runoff contamination. In addition, maintenance of the pavement surface, such as coal-tar seal coating, can be significant sources of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) to the runoff. continues next page

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138 URBAN STORMWATER MANAGEMENT IN THE UNITED STATES BOX 3-2 Continued Paved parking area with frequent automobile Contamination of paved parking areas due to movement commercial activities Storage Areas. These can also be paved, unpaved, directly connected, or drained to pervious areas. As with parking areas, unpaved storage areas should not be considered pervious surfaces because the compacted material effectively hinders infiltration. Deten- tion storage runoff losses from unpaved storage areas can be significant. In storage areas (especially in commercial and industrial land uses), activities in the area can have signifi- cant effects on runoff quality. Contaminated paved storage area at vehicle Heavy equipment storage area on concrete junk yard surface Streets. Streets in municipal areas are usually paved and directly connected to the storm drainage system. In municipal areas, streets constitute a significant percentage of all impervious surfaces and runoff flows. Features that affect the quality of runoff from streets include the varying amounts of traffic on different roads and the amount and type of road- side vegetation. Large seasonal phosphorus loads can occur from residential roads in heavily wooded areas, for example.

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EFFECTS OF URBANIZATION ON WATERSHEDS 139 Wide arterial street with little roadside vegetation (left) and narrow residential street with substantial vegetation (top, right) Other Paved Areas. Other paved areas in municipal regions include driveways, playgrounds, and sidewalks. Depending on their slopes and local grading, these areas may drain directly to the drainage system or to adjacent pervious areas. In most cases, the runoff from these areas contributes little to the overall runoff for an area, and the runoff quality is of relatively better quality than from the other “hard” surfaces. Landscaped and Turf Areas. Although these are some of the only true pervious sur- faces in municipal areas, disturbed urban soils can be severely compacted, with much more reduced infiltration rates than are assumed for undisturbed regional soils. Besides the usually greater than expected quantities of runoff of pervious surfaces in urban areas, they can also contribute high concentrations of various pollutants. In areas with high rain intensities, erosion of sediment can be high from pervious areas, resulting in much higher concentrations of total suspended solids (TSS) than from paved areas. Also, landscaping chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides, can be transported from landscaped urban areas. Undeveloped woods in urban areas can have close to natural runoff conditions, but many parks and other open-space areas usually have degraded runoff compared to natural conditions. Turf grass has unique characteristics compared to other landscaped areas in that the soil structure is usually more severely degraded compared to natural conditions. The normally shallower root systems are not as effective in restoring compacted soils and they can remain compacted due to some activities (pathways, parked cars, playing fields, etc.) that do not occur on areas planted with shrubs and trees. continues on next page

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