Estimating the Limits of Infiltration in the Urban Appalachian Plateau
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Green infrastructure in urbanized areas commonly uses infiltration systems, such as rain gardens, swales and trenches, to convey surface runoff from impervious surfaces into surrounding soils. However, precipitation inputs can exceed soil infiltration rates, creating a limit to infiltration-based storm water management, particularly in urban areas covered by impervious surfaces. Given the limited availability and varied quality of soil infiltration rate data, we synthesized information from national databases, available field test data, and applicable literature to characterize soil infiltration rate distributions, focusing on Allegheny County, Pennsylvania as a case study. A range of impervious cover conditions was defined by sampling available GIS data (e.g., LiDAR and street edge lines) with analysis windows placed randomly across urbanization gradients. Changes in effective precipitation caused by impervious cover were calculated across these gradients and compared to infiltration rate distributions to identify thresholds in impervious coverage where these limits are exceeded. Many studies have demonstrated the effects of urbanization on infiltration, but the identification of these thresholds will clarify interactions between impervious cover and soil infiltration. These methods can help identify sections of urban areas that require augmentation of infiltration-based systems with additional infrastructural strategies, especially as green infrastructure moves beyond low impact development towards more frequent application during infilling of existing urban systems.