3
Regional Variations

The United States contains an extraordinarily diverse landscape, with tremendous variation in physical geography, climate, and ecology, as well as parallel diversity in the political and economic landscape. As a result, approaches to watershed management differ, too. This chapter describes regional variations in physical hydrology, ecology, and human impacts. These regional variations and human aspects significantly affect the functioning of watersheds, and managers must consider them when creating plans and regulations and when implementing watershed approaches. This chapter demonstrates that no single approach to watershed planning can fit the wide range of conditions present, and sets the stage for understanding why site-specific research planning will always be necessary for watershed management.

Physical Hydrology

Physical hydrology sets the limits within which the watershed operates. The physical hydrology includes precipitation, evaporation, the amount of water held in the soil, streamflow, groundwater, and water quality.

Precipitation

The contiguous United States receives an average of approximately 75 centimeters (30 inches) precipitation per year, but there is great spatial variability (Figure 3.1). The heavy precipitation of the Pacific Northwest is a function of cool eastward-moving wet and cool air masses, mid-latitude cyclones, and oro-



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--> 3 Regional Variations The United States contains an extraordinarily diverse landscape, with tremendous variation in physical geography, climate, and ecology, as well as parallel diversity in the political and economic landscape. As a result, approaches to watershed management differ, too. This chapter describes regional variations in physical hydrology, ecology, and human impacts. These regional variations and human aspects significantly affect the functioning of watersheds, and managers must consider them when creating plans and regulations and when implementing watershed approaches. This chapter demonstrates that no single approach to watershed planning can fit the wide range of conditions present, and sets the stage for understanding why site-specific research planning will always be necessary for watershed management. Physical Hydrology Physical hydrology sets the limits within which the watershed operates. The physical hydrology includes precipitation, evaporation, the amount of water held in the soil, streamflow, groundwater, and water quality. Precipitation The contiguous United States receives an average of approximately 75 centimeters (30 inches) precipitation per year, but there is great spatial variability (Figure 3.1). The heavy precipitation of the Pacific Northwest is a function of cool eastward-moving wet and cool air masses, mid-latitude cyclones, and oro-

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--> FIGURE 3.1 Mean annual precipitation in the continental U.S. SOURCE: USGS, 1970.

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--> graphic lifting by coastal mountains. The same mountains, along with the dominant high pressure in the Southwest, block most Pacific moisture from the continental interiors, creating an arid effect extending eastward to mid-continent. The humid East is affected by warm, moist air from the Gulf and South Atlantic, with mid-latitude and tropical cyclones and strong convection. Average annual precipitation is only a crude guide to natural water supply, given its high annual and monthly variability (Figure 3.2). First, there is an annual pattern in the timing of precipitation. On the West Coast, a strong summer minimum of precipitation exists while the North-Central states and East show a summer maximum. Second, there is a great deal of long-term variance of total amounts received on a monthly and annual basis. There is also great spatial variation in the frequency of precipitation, with the Northeast and Northwest having more rainy days. While there is a general spatial correlation between amount and frequency of precipitation (Figure 3.1), the Southeast often receives great amounts of precipitation in fewer days while the Northeast has more precipitation days with smaller amounts. The frequency and magnitude of rainfall events have important implications for flood control aspects of watershed management. For any given return period (that is, the time between events of the same magnitude), the magnitude of those events varies with geography. Magnitudes are highest in the Southeast, followed by small areas in the mountains of the far West (Figure 3.3). Minimum values are found in the intermountain basins of the West. An example showing these distributions is the map of 100-year, 24-hour values of precipitation (Figure 3.4), which shows the maximum 24-hour rainfall amounts expected on average every 100 years. Watershed planning often uses this 24-hour maximum value. A complete set of similar maps is available showing the distribution of small events (a minor 1-year, 30-minute storm) to major 100-year, 10-day events (Miller, 1964; Hershfield, 1961). These frequency-magnitude values are on an annual basis, but monthly probabilities are also available for the eastern United States (Hershfield, 1961). Another important characteristic of precipitation in watershed management is its erosivity, or ability to erode soil, expressed in units of 100 foot-tons per acre-year (Figure 3.5). These values, in conjunction with the other factors of the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE), give a prediction of annual sheet and rill erosion in tons per acre for any location in the nation (Renard et al., 1995). Evaporation Evaporation is important to water supply and watershed management because it represents the natural loss of otherwise available water. One measure of the concept is the combination of potential evaporation and transpiration, known as potential evapotranspiration or PET. PET data are very sparse, but a suitable

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--> FIGURE 3.2 Monthly precipitation: means and extremes. SOURCE: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 1970.

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--> FIGURE 3.3 Mean annual maximum rainfall in 24 hours. SOURCE: USGS, 1970.

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--> FIGURE 3.4 100-year 24-hour rainfall. SOURCE: Hershfield, 1961.

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--> FIGURE 3.5 Rainfall erosion index. SOURCE: Modified from Renard et al., 1991.

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--> surrogate is lake evaporation. Annual average values range from 50 centimeters (20 inches) in northern Maine to 215 centimeters (86 inches) in Southwest California (Figure 3.6). The amount of mean annual lake evaporation reflects the major physical controls of latitude, altitude, and relative humidity. Like precipitation, PET has an annual temporal pattern (systematic variance through the course of the year) as well as year-to-year variation. One important consideration in watershed management is what proportion of the year's moisture loss occurs during the growing season (May to October). Values range from a high of more than 80 percent in the northern U.S. to below 60 percent in south Florida (Kohler et al., 1959). Soil Water Budgets Soil water—that is, water contained in soil—is necessary for most plant and animal life. The availability of soil water is a function of both precipitation (counted as income) and evapotransporation (counted as expenditures). These budgets or balances can be expressed in diagrammatic form to show soil water surpluses, deficits, recharge, and utilization of stored soil water (Figure 3.7). Such water budgets not only give insight into a major control on natural processes, they also provide information relevant to irrigation and other water requirements. Amounts of water that exceed a soil's holding capacity move down through the soil into groundwater for aquifer recharge. Some of the groundwater provides baseflow for streams and leaves the region as runoff. Representative soil water budgets for the United States show that the magnitude of deficits and surpluses varies greatly by region and season. The greatest deficits occur in the Southwest, while the strongest surpluses occur in the Pacific Northwest and the East. Short but significant soil water deficits may occur; even in humid areas, near the end of the growing season. Given variations in precipitation and evaporation, water budgets can vary significantly from year to year. ''Drought" occurs when precipitation is far enough below the long-term average to create a soil water deficiency great enough to adversely affect economic and social systems. There are great regional differences in the United States regarding the severity of drought (USGS, 1970). Streamflow Streamflow plays an important role in water supply, flooding, navigation, pollution, and recreation. It is composed of two major components: baseflow and stormflow. Baseflow is the more or less continuous flow that results from groundwater and a surplus of soil water. Stormflow results from rainfall or snowmelt events. In soils with high infiltration capacities and hydraulic conductivities, most stormflow may be subsurface except where soil is absolutely saturated. Where infiltration and/or conductivity is low, as in areas affected by compaction

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--> FIGURE 3.6 Mean annual lake evaporation (in inches for 1946 to 1955). SOURCE: Kohler et al., 1959.

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--> FIGURE 3.7 Soil water budgets. SOURCE: Calculated from Mather, 1978. and/or deterioration of soil structure, rainfall from intense storms may be forced to move toward streams as overland flow, increasing the risk of soil erosion and downstream flooding. Similarly, urbanized areas are effectively "waterproofed" with roofs and pavement so that surface runoff is greatly increased. The average annual runoff for the contiguous United States is approximately 30 centimeters (12 inches), but varies greatly by region (Figure 3.8), with rates ranging from less than 0.6 centimeter (0.25 inches) in some western areas to over 50 centimeters (20 inches) in some parts of the East. The runoff rates are roughly predicted by the soil water budgets.

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--> FIGURE 3.8 Average annual runoff. SOURCE: Leopold, 1964.

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--> FIGURE 3.23 Changes in ground water surface and piezometric surface (ground water surface from confined aquifer) north of Bakersfield, California. SOURCE: Reprint, with permission, from Todd, 1959. © 1959 by John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Because of heavy irrigation, some areas have too much ground water recharge. As water tables rise close to the surface, the slightly saline ground water can move to the surface by capillary action and evaporate. This concentrate salt and other minerals at the surface, often damaging the soil and polluting local ground water. Point Sources of Pollution Unlike the nonpoint sources considered earlier in this section, point sources of water pollution are released, often deliberately, into a stream at an identifiable place. Thus, prerelease treatment usually becomes more practicable for point sources than nonpoint sources of pollution (Malina, 1996; McCutcheon et al., 1993). The main point-source dischargers are wastewater treatment systems, industrial plants, feedlots, and mining operations. Wastewater treatment plants put sewage from residential, commercial, and industrial areas through primary, secondary, and in some cases tertiary treatment processes that remove organic material, nitrogen, phosphorus, and pathogens. With present technology, increased public awareness, and increasingly stringent discharge permit requirements, wastewater can be treated to better-than-ambient condition and the effluent released into rivers, lakes, and oceans, or recharged

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--> Box 3.4 Santa Ana River Watershed, California: An Effluent-Dominated Stream The Santa Ana River of Southern California exemplifies effluent-dominated streams and their watershed management problems. The 2,800 square-mile watershed is home to 4.5 million people, and spans ecological zones with little rainfall, ranging from arid lowlands and coastal areas to pine forests in the San Bernardino Mountains. Water users consume twice as much water as is available naturally, with the deficit made up by water imported from northern California and the Colorado River. Land uses include residential, commercial, industrial, military bases, airports, agriculture (crops, orchards, and high-density dairy farms), open spaces and parks (including Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm), tourism and recreation (skiing, sailing, swimming, boating, marinas, hunting, and hiking), wildlife habitats for rare and endangered species, water reclamation, groundwater recharge, and major flood control facilities. The Santa Ana River is an intermittent stream, and for most of the year, 45 wastewater treatment plants contribute 85 to 90 percent of its surface flows. Many sections of the river are concrete lined and the river serves as a dry flood control channel. Because of discharges from National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitted point sources, the Santa Ana River was listed by EPA on the 304 (l) ''toxic hot spots" list of impaired waterways. Water quality problems would continue to exist even if all permitted dischargers met all their discharge requirements. Nitrogen and total dissolved solids exceed water quality objectives mostly due to nonpoint source discharges from agricultural and dairy practices. Polluted urban runoff, which is growing from increasing urbanization, exacerbates the problem. This watershed illustrates the failure of the "one-size-fits-all" water quality criteria developed at the national and state governmental levels, for those criteria do not fit the unique conditions of the Santa Ana River watershed. If federally mandated "Individual Control Strategies" are added to the NPDES permits of

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--> the dischargers to the Santa Ana River, as required under the 304(l) listing, the cost (an estimated $6 billion) would have a substantial adverse effect on the economy of the region. The Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, a joint powers agency made up of the five major water districts in the watershed that coordinate and implement projects to improve water quality in the region, and the Santa Ana River Dischargers Association, an organization of the upstream dischargers into the Santa Ana River, initiated a "Use-Attainability Analysis" for the basin. Their objective was to evaluate the physical, biological, chemical, and hydrological conditions of the Santa Ana River, and to determine what specific beneficial uses the river could support. The Santa Ana Watershed Planning Advisory Committee was also formed. It was made up of agricultural and dairy interests, city and county governments, wastewater and water supply agencies, coastal and environmental interests, stormwater and flood control interests, water quality regulators, and state and numerous federal government resource agencies. The study developed and made scientifically grounded recommendations on establishing a new beneficial use designation based on the effluent-dependent, concrete-lined conditions of the river. The Californian Regional Water Quality Control Board's Basin Plan for the watershed designated portions of the river as "Limited Warm Fresh Water Habitat," with new water quality criteria based on the site-specific characteristics of the Santa Ana River. However, the new beneficial use and water quality criteria were rejected by EPA. The use-attainability analysis was a technical success, an excellent example of a thorough, scientifically based study of the physical, biological, chemical, and hydrological conditions of a watershed. It made a strong a case for rejecting the "one-size-fits-all" regulations and instead developed a beneficial use designation designed for the site-specific characteristics of effluent-dominated streams in arid areas. However, the study was a bureaucratic failure. It was accepted at the regional and state levels, but rejected by the EPA regional and national offices. It is a prime example of the jurisdictional disputes that arise among local, state, and federal agencies over the authority to establish water quality control standards for a river (Anderson, 1996, personal communication). SOURCE: O'Connor, 1995.

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--> into aquifers. In some parts of the Southwest, sewage effluent may constitute the major portion of streamflow (Stanford, 1997), making the management of such streams problematic (see Box 3.4). In most parts of the country, the effluent is discharged into reservoirs and rivers that serve as drinking water sources for people living downstream. The effluent may also be used for irrigation and industrial purposes. In non-seaward urban and rural areas, wastewater is treated on-site septic systems. Increasingly stringent public health codes and inspections are reducing the ground water and surface water pollution caused by these systems. However, in many places, septic systems are still placed too close to the ground water table, leading to ground water pollution, or in soils that are too thin, allowing the effluent to move along bedrock into springs and streams. Industrial wastes (heat, chemical, infectious agents, and radiation) are treated prior to release into the waters of the United States. Some industries pretreat their wastewater and then release it into the wastewater treatment system. Other industries treat the waste themselves to National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit standards prior to releasing it into streams and rivers. The 1995 Toxic Release Inventory Report (TRI) shows that 630,000 tons of toxins were released into the waters of the United States and 120,000 tons transferred to wastewater treatment plants (USEPA, 1997). Air emissions from industrial sources carry many pollutants. These airborne pollutants fall directly into the rivers and lakes ("dry fall") or are collected by precipitation and brought to earth. Sulfur oxides from burning of coals have been implicated in acid precipitation, which has heavily affected both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Many streams of the Northeast, where poorly buffered acidic soils predominate, have been rendered sterile. Air currents have carried pollutants, including DDT, dioxins, and other carcinogens, into all parts of the globe, so that there are no places that do not have measurable concentrations of these and other toxic chemicals. The TRI data for 1995 show a release of approximately 631,000 tons of toxic chemicals into the air (USEPA, 1997). Some of these chemicals eventually get into the water, although many are retained in the soils. Feedlots are important point sources of pollution from agriculture. They may range from isolated barnlots for small herds to very large feeding areas where thousands of animals are kept in relatively small areas. The runoff from feedlots is toxic, high in biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), looks and smells bad, and carries a high load of nitrogen and phosphorus. Confined feeding operations must now treat their wastewater, but problems remain. Mining can create both sediment and chemical pollution. Environmental laws have greatly curtailed impacts from present-day mining, but past mining activity has left a harsh legacy. In areas of high relief, spoil from mining often was sufficient to aggrade streams and floodplains, while clearing of forests for ore smelting caused stream erosion elsewhere (Graf, 1979). Perhaps the most dramatic example of mining impacts was from hydraulic mining for gold in

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--> California's Sierra Nevada, where mountain valleys were sometimes buried to depths of 25 meters (Gilbert, 1917). Even though hydraulic mining was outlawed in the mid-19th century, sediment has continued to move down the rivers toward San Francisco Bay. A continuing problem is the mining of sand and gravel from streams. The mining of minerals and fuels, especially of coal, expose such compounds and minerals as iron sulfides, pyrite, and marcasite (ferrous sulphide). The result is often acidification with high sulfate and iron concentrations that may not only be toxic, but also unsightly. In some cases, mining may release toxic metals into the environment. In the past, air pollution from ore processing has affected vegetation and soils over a large area. Wastes from the mining and processing of uranium and thorium may pollute the water and sediments of rivers for miles downstream (Graf, 1994). Conclusions The physical and hydrologic components of our environmental systems are tremendously variable from one place to another and from one time to another. The ecological systems that depend on that hydrology are also variable, giving rise to great diversity in the life forms and processes across the continent. Our human population is part of this vast and changeable ecosystem, and it too shows great variability, especially with respect to the density of settlement. Humans affect the physical behavior of hydrologic systems through engineering works, and their chemical characteristics through pollution. Watershed managers need to be aware of the regional variation of environmental systems and take it into account as they plan activities. The variability in natural systems is matched by variability of the institutional landscape created to manage our water and watershed resources, and this diversity is described in Chapters 6 and 7. Because of the great variability in natural resources and institutional structures, it is unlikely that a standard solution for watershed problems imposed from the national level will be workable in all localities. Rather, it appears that partnerships involving a range of governmental levels, citizens, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations are necessary to accommodate the variability. References Baker, L. 1996. Lakes and reservoirs. Chap. 9 In Mays, L. (ed.) Water Resources Handbook. New York: McGraw-Hill. Bayley, P.B. 1995. Understanding large river-floodplain ecosystems. BioScience 45(3):153-158. Benda, L. E. 1990. The influence of debris flows on channels and valley floors in the Oregon Coast Range, USA. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 15:457-466. Benoit, G. 1994. Clean technique measurement of Pb, Ag, and Cd in fresh water: A redefinition of metal pollution. Environ. Sci. Technol. 28:1987-1991.

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--> Bilby, R. E. 1981. Role of organic debris dams in regulating the export of dissolved and particulate matter from a forested watershed. Ecology 62:1234-1243. Bisson, P. A., R. E. Bilby, M.D. Bryant, C. A. Dolloff, G. B. Grette, R. A. House, M. L. Murphy, K. V. Koski, and J. R. Sedell. 1987. Large woody debris in forested streams in the Pacific Northwest: past, present, and future. Pp. 143-190 in E. O. Salo and T. W. Cundy (eds.) Streamside Management: Forestry and Fishery Interactions. Contribution Number 57, Institute of Forest Resources, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. Bisson, P. A., T. P. Quinn, G. H. Reeves, and S. V. Gregory. 1992. Best management practices, cumulative effects, and long-term trends in fish abundance in Pacific Northwest river systems. Pages 189-232 In R. B. Naiman (ed.) Watershed Management: Balancing Sustainability and Environmental Change. Springer-Verlag, New York, N.Y. Boyle Engineering Co. 1982. Sediment source analysis and sediment delivery analysis, Newport Bay Watershed - San Diego Creek comprehensive stormwater sedimentation control plan. San Diego, CA. Branson, F., G. Gifford, K. Renard, and R. Hadley, 1981. Rangeland Hydrology, 2nd Ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt. Brookes, A. 1985. River channelization: traditional engineering methods, physical consequences and alternative practices. Prog. in Phys. Geog. 9: 44-73. Burke, R. 1972. Stormwater runoff. Pp. 727-733 in R. T. Oglesby, C. A. Carlson, and J. A. McCann (eds.) River Ecology and Man. New York: Academic Press. Calder, I. 1993. Hydrologic effects of land use change. Chap. 13 In Maidment, D. (ed.) Handbook of Hydrology. New York: McGraw-Hill. Chapra, S. 1996. Rivers and streams. Chap. 10 In Mays, L. (ed.)Water Resources Handbook . New York: McGraw-Hill. Cooke, R. U., and R. Reeves. 1976. Arroyos and Environmental Change in the American Southwest. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. Council on Environmental Quality. 1981. Environmental Trends. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Davies-Colley, R. J. 1997. Stream channels axe narrower in pasture than in forest. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 31:599-608. Dendy, F. E., and W. A. Champion. 1978. Sediment deposition in U.S. reservoirs: Summary of data reported through 1975. U.S. Dept. Agr. Misc. Pub. 1362. Dunne, T., and L. B. Leopold. 1978. Water in Environmental Planning. San Francisco, Calif.: Freeman. Ellis, J. B. 1975. Urban Stormwater Pollution. Middlesex Polytechnic Research Report 1. Flegal, A. R., and C. C. Patterson. 1983. Vertical concentration profiles of lead in the central Pacific at 15N and 20S. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 64:19-32. Frankenfield, H. C. 1927. The floods of 1927 in the Mississippi Basin. Monthly Weather Review Supp. 29:10. Freeze, R. A., and J. A. Cherry. 1979. Groundwater. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall. Fuguitt, G. V. 1985. The Nonmetropolitan population turnaround. Annual Review of Sociology 11:259-280. Fuguitt, G. V., D. L. Brown, and C. L. Beale. 1989. Rural and Small Town America. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Gallant, A. L., T. R. Whittier, D. P. Larsen, J. M. Omernik, and R. M. Hughes. 1989. Regionalization as a Tool for Managing Environmental Resources. EPA Research and Development Report EPA/600/3-89/060. Corvallis, Ore.: U.S. EPA Environmental Research Laboratory. GAO. 1991. Water Pollution: More emphasis needed on prevention in EPA's efforts to protect groundwater. Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office. GAO. 1994. Ecosystem Management: Additional actions needed to adequately test a promising approach. GAO/RCED-94-111. Washington, D.C.: U.S. General Accounting Office.

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