Comparison of sediment and nutrient export and runoff characteristics from watersheds with centralized versus distributed stormwater management

Journal of Environmental Management
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Abstract

Stormwater control measures (SCMs) are used to retain stormwater and pollutants. SCMs have traditionally been installed in a centralized manner using detention to mitigate peak flows. Recently, distributed SCM networks that treat runoff near the source have been increasingly utilized. The aim of this study was to evaluate differences among watersheds that vary in SCM arrangement by assessing differences in baseflow nutrient (NOx-N and PO4) concentrations and fluxes, stormflow export of suspended sediments and particulate phosphorus (PP), and runoff characteristics. A paired watershed approach was used to compare export between 2004 and 2016 from one forested watershed (For-MD), one suburban watershed with centralized SCMs (Cent-MD), and one suburban watershed with distributed SCMs (Dist-MD). Results indicated baseflow nitrate (NOx-N) concentrations typically exceeded 1 mg-N/L in all watersheds and were highest in Dist-MD. Over the last 10 years in Dist-MD, nitrate concentrations in both stream baseflow and in a groundwater well declined as land use shifted from agriculture to suburban. Baseflow nitrate export temporarily increased during the construction phase of SCM development in Dist-MD. This temporary pulse of nitrate may be attributed to the conversion of sediment control facilities to SCMs and increased subsurface flushing as infiltration SCMs came on line. During storm flow, Dist-MD tended to have less runoff and lower maximum specific discharge than Cent-MD for small events (<1.3 cm), but runoff responses became increasingly similar to Cent-MD with increasing precipitation (>1.3 cm). Mass export estimated during paired storm events indicated Dist-MD exported 30% less sediment and 31% more PP than Cent-MD. For large precipitation events, export of sediment and PP was similar among all three watersheds. Results suggest that distributed SCMs can reduce runoff and sediment loads during small rain events compared to centralized SCMs, but these differences become less evident for large events when peak discharge likely leads to substantial bank erosion.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Comparison of sediment and nutrient export and runoff characteristics from watersheds with centralized versus distributed stormwater management
Series title Journal of Environmental Management
DOI 10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.07.067
Volume 203
Issue 1
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Eastern Geographic Science Center
Description 13 p.
First page 286
Last page 298