Construction of small reservoirs affects ecosystem processes in numerous ways including fragmenting stream habitat, altering hydrology, and modifying water chemistry. While the upper and middle Chattahoochee River basins within the Southeastern United States Piedmont contain few natural lakes, they have a high density of small reservoirs (more than 7500 small reservoirs in the nearly 12,000 km2 basin). Policymakers and water managers in the region have little information about small reservoir distribution, uses, or the cumulative inundation of land cover caused by small reservoir construction. Examination of aerial photography reveals the spatiotemporal patterns and extent of small reservoir construction from 1950 to 2010. Over that 60 year timeframe, the area inundated by water increased nearly six fold (from 19 reservoirs covering 0.16% of the study area in 1950 to 329 reservoirs covering 0.95% of the study area in 2010). While agricultural practices were associated with reservoir creation from 1950 to 1970, the highest rates of reservoir construction occurred during subsequent suburban development between 1980 and 1990. Land cover adjacent to individual reservoirs transitioned over time through agricultural abandonment, land reforestation, and conversion to development during suburban expansion. The prolific rate of ongoing small reservoir creation, particularly in newly urbanizing regions and developing counties, necessitates additional attention from watershed managers and continued scientific research into cumulative environmental impacts at the watershed scale.
Additional publication details
Small reservoir distribution, rate of construction, and uses in the upper and middle Chattahoochee basins of the Georgia Piedmont, USA, 1950-2010