Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 16, Issue 11, pp 2580–2593 | Cite as

Impact of urban development on streamflow regime of a Portuguese peri-urban Mediterranean catchment

  • Carla Sofia Santos Ferreira
  • Rory Peter Dominic Walsh
  • João Pedro Carvalho Nunes
  • Tammo S. Steenhuis
  • Manuel Nunes
  • João Luís Mendes Pedroso de Lima
  • Celeste Oliveira Alves Coelho
  • António José Dinis Ferreira
Urban Soils and Sediments



Relatively little is known in the Mediterranean environment about changes in streamflow during urban development in partially urbanized peri-urban catchments. This paper explores the modification of streamflow regime as a consequence of the construction of an enterprise park, a major road, and expansion of residential areas, leading to urban areas increase from 32 to 40 % in a small catchment (6.2 km2), located in the periphery of one of the main cities in central mainland Portugal.

Materials and methods

The study was carried out over five hydrological years (October 2008–September 2009 to October 2012–September 2013), including two initial years of pre- and three following years of post-additional urban development. Streamflow was recorded by a V-notch weir at the catchment outlet at 5-min intervals. Rainfall was recorded at a weather station 0.5 km north of the catchment and by five tipping-bucket raingauges installed in January 2011 within the study catchment. Streamflow was converted into runoff and split into baseflow and stormflow components by applying a mathematical low-pass digital filter. Streamflow differences were investigated through changes in (i) annual runoff coefficients, (ii) annual baseflow index, (iii) seasonal baseflow index and stormflow coefficient, and (iv) storm event analysis.

Results and discussion

Annual runoff coefficient ranged from 14 to 21 % and storm runoff coefficient from 9 to 14 %, both between the driest 2011/12 and wettest 2012/13. Although these differences were influenced by inter-annual weather variability, a comparison between years with similar rainfall before and after additional urban development showed a 43 % increase in storm runoff. Impacts on streamflow were also noticed through changes on hydrograph: (i) regression lines of storm runoff against rainstorm parameters exhibited higher vertical positions in 2012/13 than 2008/09, (ii) gradual increase in peak flow but with a clear distance between pre- and post- additional urbanization, (iii) quicker response time from 60–75 min to 40–45 min between both periods, and (iv) decrease in recession time from 21–29 h to 7–9 h for the same periods.


The dispersed urban pattern and permeable soils provide many overland flow sinks, favouring relatively low storm runoff of the catchment. Nevertheless, the enlargement of impervious surfaces (from 12.8 to 17.0 %) and particularly the storm drainage system installed in new urban areas led to great changes on rainfall–runoff event responses. Urban planning should consider the landscape mosaic of peri-urban areas in order to maximize water infiltration and minimize the impacts on streamflow regime.


Rainfall–runoff events Recession time Response time Runoff coefficient Storm runoff Urbanization 



This research was carried out in the framework of the (1) PhD research fellowship of Carla Ferreira (SFRH/BD/64493/2009), funded by the Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT), under QREN-POPH and co-funded by ESF and MEC national funds, and (2) FRURB project “Managing Flood Risk in Urban areas in a global change context” (PTDC/AUR-URB/123089/2010), also funded by FCT. Additional funding was provided by the FCT as a post-doctoral fellowship for João Nunes (SFRH/BPD/87571/2012). The authors would like to acknowledge Daniel Soares for fieldwork assistance and Lídia Carvalho for the help with the land-use analysis and streamflow data compilation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carla Sofia Santos Ferreira
    • 1
    • 2
  • Rory Peter Dominic Walsh
    • 3
  • João Pedro Carvalho Nunes
    • 1
  • Tammo S. Steenhuis
    • 4
  • Manuel Nunes
    • 2
  • João Luís Mendes Pedroso de Lima
    • 5
  • Celeste Oliveira Alves Coelho
    • 1
  • António José Dinis Ferreira
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Environment and Marine Studies (CESAM), Department of Environment and PlanningUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Research Centre for Natural Resources, Environment and Society (CERNAS), College of AgriculturePolytechnic Institute of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  3. 3.Department of Geography, College of ScienceSwansea UniversitySwanseaUK
  4. 4.Department of Biological and Environmental EngineeringCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  5. 5.Institute for Marine Research (IMAR), Marine and Environmental Research Centre (MARE), Department of Civil Engineering of the Faculty of Science and Technology of the University of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal

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