Quantifying flow interval–pollutant loading relationships in a rapidly urbanizing mixed-land-use watershed of the Central USA

  • Sean J. Zeiger
  • Jason A. Hubbart
Original Article


Rapid urbanization and agricultural development have altered flow and pollutant loading regimes resulting in poorly understood pollutant transport regimes and inadequately conceived management practices. Four years of hydrologic and water quality data (i.e., stream flow, suspended sediment, nitrate, nitrite, total ammonium, total inorganic nitrogen, and total phosphorus) were collected using a five-site nested-scale study design in a representative mixed-land-use watershed. Cumulative nested sub-basin drainage areas ranged from 79 to 208 km2. Daily flow and load duration analyses were used to quantify land use impacts to flow-mediated pollutant loading at multiple flow intervals including high flows (0–10%), moist conditions (10–40%), mid-range flows (40–60%), dry conditions (60–90%), and low flows (90–100%). Pollutant loads ranged across four orders of magnitude for suspended sediments, and three orders of magnitude for nutrient loads during the high flow interval when nearly all of the total pollutant loads were transported (e.g., 99% of suspended sediments, 92% of total inorganic nitrogen, and 95% of total phosphorus loads). Results from stepwise multiple linear regression analyses showed significant relationships between land use, flow, and pollutant load at high flows, moist conditions, and mid-range flow intervals (R 2 > 75.7; p < 0.035). No significant relationships (p < 0.05) were detected during dry conditions, or low flow intervals. Results highlight the need for consideration of combined flow and pollutant loading targets appropriate for watersheds modified by current and ongoing land use and point to a need for long-term and broad-scale efforts to develop achievable hydrologic and water quality recommendations especially in rapidly urbanizing mixed-land-use watersheds.


Pollutant loading Urban Mixed-land-use hydrology Suspended sediment Nutrients 



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.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forestry, School of Natural Resources, Water Resources ProgramUniversity 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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