Assessment of Runoff Volume Reduction Associated with Soil Amendments Added to Portions of Highway Median-Strip Catchments in Ohio, 2018–2020

Scientific Investigations Report 2021-5114
Prepared in cooperation with ms consultants
By:  and 

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Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey installed 10 rain gages and 12 calibrated H-flumes to measure rainfall and runoff volumes at 10 locations in Ohio Department of Transportation highway median-strip catchments. Data were collected to facilitate comparisons of rainfall and runoff volumes at study sites before and after stormwater best management practices (BMPs) were installed and between sites with different BMPs. The BMP treatments comprised removing the top layer of the existing soil, rototilling the remaining soil to a 6-inch depth, mixing the soils with one of two soil amendments (compost with sand or shale) at one of two thicknesses (4 inches or 6 inches), topping with a compost blanket, seeding, and installing erosion control matting. The overall treatment used at a given study site is referred to as “BMP.” At two locations where soil amendments were installed, a second “control” site was installed to measure runoff from an adjacent catchment in the same median strip where no soil amendment was installed. This no-treatment option (no soil amendment) was considered its own class of BMP.

Rainfall and runoff data were collected during periods when air temperatures were above freezing (including all months except January, February, and parts of December and March) from 2018 to 2020. The data collection period for each study site was divided into “pre-BMP” and “post-BMP” periods. Equipment to measure rainfall and runoff was installed and data were collected from April to December 2018 before installation of soil amendments (the pre-BMP period). The post-BMP period started between April and May of 2019 at the first measured rainfall after soil amendments were installed. Rainfall and runoff monitoring continued through September 2020. For control sites, the post-BMP periods were assigned to start with the first measured rainfall in the 2019 data collection season.

A rainfall-runoff “event” was defined as beginning at the time of the first measured rainfall and ending when rainfall and runoff (if any) ceased and remained ceased for at least 3 hours. A value referred to as “event runoff percentage,” defined as the total volume of runoff during an event expressed as a percentage of the total volume of rainfall falling over the catchment, was computed for each event. The distribution of rainfall totals associated with events was similar between the pre-BMP and post-BMP periods; however, there were appreciable between-site differences in the distribution of event runoff percentages during the pre-BMP and post-BMP periods.

Empirical distribution function (EDF) tests were performed with and without data from events that resulted in no runoff to determine whether the distribution of event runoff percentages changed from the pre-BMP period to the post-BMP period. The null hypothesis that the EDFs of event runoff percentages were equal in the pre-BMP and post-BMP periods was rejected (α=0.05) in at least one of the two tests for four sites (one site with a shale amendment and three sites with sand amendments). Mean event runoff percentages at each of those four sites decreased from the pre-BMP period to the post-BMP period. The null hypothesis that the EDFs of event runoff percentages were equal was not rejected for the other six sites’ draining catchments with soil amendments or the two control sites. EDF tests performed on event rainfall totals indicated no statistically significant changes between the pre-BMP and post-BMP period distributions for any of the sites.

Double-mass analyses of cumulative runoff were performed for two pairs of closely spaced sites (each pair located in a common median strip): one site in each pair drained a catchment where soil amendments were installed, and the other (a control) drained a catchment without soil amendments. Those double-mass analyses indicated a small reduction in runoff from the pre-BMP to post-BMP period at the site whose catchment received the sand and compost amendment, but no perceptible reduction in runoff at the site whose catchment received the shale and compost amendment.

Regression analyses indicated that (a) three rainfall factors (event rainfall totals, total rainfall for the previous 7 days, and a cross product of the factors) and the intercept term were the four most important factors explaining event runoff percentages, (b) the effect of amendment type on event runoff percentage was small in comparison to the rainfall and intercept terms, (c) event runoff percentages tended to be lower for sites with shale amendments than sites with sand amendments; however, event runoff percentages tended to be lower for control sites than for sites with shale or sand amendments, and (d) event runoff percentages increased with increasing amendment thickness. The counterintuitive results that event runoff percentages increased with increasing amendment thickness and that control sites tended to have lower event runoff percentages than sites draining soil-amended catchments likely reflects unmeasured factors that existed at the sites before BMPs were installed rather than the effect of the BMP treatments.

Although not definitive, some support for the conclusion that the sand amendment was generally more effective at reducing runoff than the shale amendment was provided by results from the EDF tests, double-mass analyses, and runoff statistics.

Suggested Citation

Whitehead, M.T., and Koltun, G.F., 2021, Assessment of runoff volume reduction associated with soil amendments added to portions of highway median-strip catchments in Ohio, 2018–2020: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2021–5114, 27 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20215114.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Purpose and Scope
  • Site Description
  • Instrumentation and Data Collection
  • Soil Amendments
  • Rainfall and Runoff Characteristics
  • Analyses
  • Conclusions
  • Summary
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Assessment of runoff volume reduction associated with soil amendments added to portions of highway median-strip catchments in Ohio, 2018–2020
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2021-5114
DOI 10.3133/sir20215114
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 27 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Ohio
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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