Temporal evolution of flow regimes in urbanizing basins

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Alfonso Mejia1, Florian Rossel1, Jorge A Gironas2 and Tijana Jovanovic1, (1)Pennsylvania State University Main Campus, University Park, PA, United States, (2)Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Santiago, Chile
We characterize the temporal evolution of the flow regime of urbanizing basins. By urbanizing basins, we mean basins that have experienced urban growth during their observation period. To represent the flow regime, we use flow duration curves (FDCs). We compute the FDCs using a stochastic model of daily streamflow for urban basins. In this case, the model aids in discerning the influence of key factors (e.g., climate, land use change, stormwater managenment conditions, and the slow and fast properties of the hydrologic response) on streamflow. To implement the model, we first divide the complete observation period of a given urban basin into intervals of equal duration, e.g. 5 years. Subsequently, we apply the model to each interval and this is how we capture the influence of land use changes and climatic fluctuations on the flow regime. We apply this modeling framework to 14 urbanizing basins in the Baltimore-Washington DC region. Results from this application indicate consistent changes in the temporal evolution of the altered flow regimes, which can largely be explained by the progressive redistribution with urban growth of water from slow subsurface runoff and evapotranspiration to fast urban runoff. We also use the modeling framework to determine indicators of ecohydrological alteration for urbanizing basins. The application of these indicators to our study area suggests that the flow regime is sensitive to alterations up to a certain level of urbanization after which sensitivity seems to level off. The flow regime also seems to be relatively more resistant to alterations for both the smaller and larger levels of urbanization considered. In the future, we would like to extend the application of the proposed modeling framework to other metropolitan areas.