Environmental Management

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 112–124 | Cite as

The Influence of Urban Density and Drainage Infrastructure on the Concentrations and Loads of Pollutants in Small Streams

  • Belinda E. Hatt
  • Tim D. Fletcher
  • Christopher J. Walsh
  • Sally L. Taylor


Effective water quality management of streams in urbanized basins requires identification of the elements of urbanization that contribute most to pollutant concentrations and loads. Drainage connection (the proportion of impervious area directly connected to streams by pipes or lined drains) is proposed as a variable explaining variance in the generally weak relationships between pollutant concentrations and imperviousness. Fifteen small streams draining independent subbasins east of Melbourne, Australia, were sampled for a suite of water quality variables. Geometric mean concentrations of all variables were calculated separately for baseflow and storm events, and these, together with estimates of runoff derived from a rainfall-runoff model, were used to estimate mean annual loads. Patterns of concentrations among the streams were assessed against patterns of imperviousness, drainage connection, unsealed (unpaved) road density, elevation, longitude (all of which were intercorrelated), septic tank density, and basin area. Baseflow and storm event concentrations of dissolved organic carbon (DOC), filterable reactive phosphorus (FRP), total phosphorus (TP) and ammonium, along with electrical conductivity (EC), all increased with imperviousness and its correlates. Hierarchical partitioning showed that DOC, EC, FRP, and storm event TP were independently correlated with drainage connection more strongly than could be explained by chance. Neither pH nor total suspended solids concentrations were strongly correlated with any basin variable. Oxidized and total nitrogen concentrations were most strongly explained by septic tank density. Loads of all variables were strongly correlated with imperviousness and connection. Priority should be given to low-impact urban design, which primarily involves reducing drainage connection, to minimize urbanization-related pollutant impacts on streams.

Urbanization Stormwater runoff Impervious area Drainage connection Catchment Water quality 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Belinda E. Hatt
    • 1
    • 3
  • Tim D. Fletcher
    • 2
  • Christopher J. Walsh
    • 1
  • Sally L. Taylor
    • 1
  1. 1.Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology, Water Studies CentreMonash UniversityAustralia
  2. 2.Cooperative Research Centre for Catchment Hydrology, Institute for Sustainable Water Resources, Department of Civil EngineeringMonash UniversityAustralia
  3. 3.Current address: Cooperative Research Centre for Catchment Hydrology, Institute for Sustainable Water Resources, Department of Civil Engineering, Monash UniversityAustralia

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