Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 799–810 | Cite as

Application of the experimental watershed approach to advance urban watershed precipitation/discharge understanding

  • Elliott Kellner
  • Jason A. Hubbart


Reliable methods are required to provide the detailed hydrologic information necessary to improve management of water resources and aquatic ecosystems in developing/urbanizing watersheds. A case study was implemented in a representative 230 km2 mixed-use, urbanizing watershed to advance precipitation/discharge understanding. Precipitation and streamflow were monitored in five sub-watersheds (nested-scale experimental watershed study design), partitioned by dominant land use type. Data were collected at 30-min intervals through the 2009 to 2015 water years. Individual sub-watershed area-normalized flow and runoff coefficients differed by as much as 400%. Two high density, urban sub-watersheds displayed large runoff coefficients indicating disproportionately high flow response to precipitation inputs. Regression analyses of sub-watershed land use characteristics and flow metrics showed strong (i.e. R2 > 0.9) statistically significant (p < 0.05) linear relationships for percentage developed, forest, and agriculture land cover. Observed relationships between land use and flow metrics illustrate the complexity of contrasting and intermingled land use types in urbanizing, mixed-land-use watersheds. Results highlight the variable hydrologic impacts of land use and suggest the potential for vegetation management as a tool for streamflow mediation in urban settings. The work is one of the first to utilize the experimental watershed method to isolate and quantify land use impacts in the context of a contemporary mixed-land-use watershed. Collectively, results emphasize the utility of the method for land and water resource managers seeking science-based information to guide management decisions and more effectively target remediation efforts in contemporary multiple-land-use watersheds.


Experimental watershed method Streamflow regime Runoff coefficient Land use impacts Mixed-land-use watershed 



Funding was provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (P. N: G08-NPS-17) under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Additional funding was provided by partners of the Hinkson Creek Watershed Collaborative Adaptive Management program. Results presented may not reflect the views of the sponsors and no official endorsement should be inferred. Special thanks are due to Sean Zeiger. Collaborators include (but are not limited to) Boone County Public Works, City of Columbia, University of Missouri, and the U.S. Geological Survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural ResourcesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Water Security and Science, Davis College, Schools of Agriculture and Food, and Natural ResourcesWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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