Using detailed monitoring data to simulate spatial sediment loading in a watershed

  • Rajith MukundanEmail author
  • Donald C. Pierson
  • Elliot M. Schneiderman
  • Mark S. Zion


The use of watershed models as cost-effective tools to quantify the impact of conservation practices on water quality is often constrained by lack of data for model parameterization. This study uses short-term (3 years) detailed monitoring data to guide spatially distributed model parameterization and modeling analysis for suspended sediment in the Upper Esopus Creek Watershed (UECW) that is part of the New York City water supply. The calibrated Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model simulated suspended sediment loading from tributary sub-basins and at the watershed outlet that were comparable to field measurements. Model simulations estimated that stream channels contributed the majority (85 %) of stream sediment in the study watershed followed by upland erosion (11 %) and point sources (4 %), consistent with previous estimates and field observations. Long-term (12 years) simulation of the calibrated model was used to apportion the average annual sediment yields from tributary sub-basins which ranged between 12 and 161 t km−2 year−1. Model simulations were also used to understand the inter-annual variability and seasonality in suspended sediment loading in the study watershed. We demonstrate the wider applicability of short-term detailed monitoring for model parameterization and calibration, and long-term simulation of water quality using the SWAT model.


Suspended sediment SWAT model New York City water supply Stream channels 



An initial draft of this paper was reviewed by Dr. David G. Smith (City University of New York) and Mr. David G. Lounsbury (NYCDEP). The GIS support provided by DGL is also kindly acknowledged. Funding for this work was provided by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection. All authors have contributed to this manuscript and are aware of the content of the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

The paper has not been submitted to any other journal or published previously. No data or texts have been manipulated to support our conclusions, and the manuscript is in compliance with ethical standards of publication.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rajith Mukundan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Donald C. Pierson
    • 2
  • Elliot M. Schneiderman
    • 2
  • Mark S. Zion
    • 2
  1. 1.School of GeosciencesUniversity of Louisiana at LafayetteLafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Bureau of Water SupplyNew York City Department of Environmental ProtectionKingstonUSA

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