Quantifying the Components of Impervious Surfaces

Open-File Report 2007-1008

Prepared for the U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration; In collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research and Assessment



This study's objectives were to (1) determine the relative contribution of impervious surface individual components by collecting digital information from high-resolution imagery, 1-meter or better; and to (2) determine which of the more advanced techniques, such as spectral unmixing or the application of coefficients to land use or land cover data, was the most suitable method that could be used by State and local governments as well as Federal agencies to efficiently measure the imperviousness in any given watershed or area of interest. The components of impervious surfaces, combined from all the watersheds and time periods from objective one were the following: buildings 29.2-percent, roads 28.3-percent, parking lots 24.6-percent; with the remaining three totaling 14-percent - driveways, sidewalks, and other, where other were any other features that were not contained within the first five. Results from objective two were spectral unmixing techniques will ultimately be the most efficient method of determining imperviousness, but are not yet accurate enough as it is critical to achieve accuracy better than 10-percent of the truth, of which the method is not consistently accomplishing as observed in this study. Of the three techniques in coefficient application tested, land use coefficient application was not practical, while if the last two methods, coefficients applied to land cover data, were merged, their end results could be to within 5-percent or better, of the truth. Until the spectral unmixing technique has been further refined, land cover coefficients should be used, which offer quick results, but not current as they were developed for the 1992 National Land Characteristics Data.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Quantifying the Components of Impervious Surfaces
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
Contributing office(s):
Eastern Region Geographic Services
v, 34 p.