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urban watersheds

Anne’s top papers of 2016 + 3 she co-wrote

Yesterday, I posted an epic analysis of my scientific reading habits in 2016, but I didn’t tell you about the papers I read last year that made my heart sing. And I didn’t take much time to brag about my own contributions to the scientific literature. So I’m going to rectify that omission today.

My top 3 papers of 2016 are (in no particular order):

Of rocks and social justice. (unsigned editorial) Nature Geoscience 9, 797 (2016) doi:10.1038/ngeo2836

The whole thing is absolutely worth reading (and it’s not behind a paywall) but here’s where it really starts to hit home:

Two main challenges stand in the way of achieving a diverse geoscience workforce representative of society: we need to attract more people who have not been wearing checkered shirts, walking boots and rucksacks since secondary school, and we need to retain them.

Waters, C. N., Zalasiewicz, J., Summerhayes, C., Barnosky, A. D., Poirier, C., Ga?uszka, A., … & Jeandel, C. (2016). The Anthropocene is functionally and stratigraphically distinct from the Holocene. Science, 351(6269), aad2622.

Want an up-to-date, data-rich, and condensed summary of why many scientists think it is time for a new geologic epoch? This is the paper to read.

Wu, Q., Zhao, Z., Liu, L., Granger, D. E., Wang, H., Cohen, D. J., … & Zhang, J. (2016). Outburst flood at 1920 BCE supports historicity of China’s Great Flood and the Xia dynasty. Science, 353(6299), 579-582.

I am a sucker for a good mega-paleo-flood story, and this one ticks all of the right boxes. An earthquake generates a landslide, which dams a river, and then fails, resulting in one of the largest floods of the last 10,000 years and alters the course of Chinese history. Geology, archaeology, and history combine in this compelling story.

Plus, a bonus paper, that was definitely one of the best papers I read in 2016.

Shields, C., and C. Tague (2015), Ecohydrology in semiarid urban ecosystems: Modeling the relationship between connected impervious area and ecosystem productivity, Water Resour. Res., 51, 302–319, doi:10.1002/2014WR016108.

I’m cheating a little bit here, because this paper came out in 2015. But I read this paper in 2015, and then I read it twice more in 2016. That’s how much I like it. Why? Because it’s a really nice illustration of how physically-based models can reveal the complex and unexpected ways that ecosystems and watersheds respond to urban environments. In a semi-arid environment, deep rooted vegetation can take advantage of the bonus water that gets delivered from rooftop downspouts that drain out onto the land. The additional water use boosts net primary productivity, potentially enough to offset the loss of productivity that occurred when parts of the landscape were paved and built upon. But while deep rooted vegetation, native to the semi-arid landscape, can take advantage of the bonus water, grass can’t. It’s a cool story, with implications for the way we develop and manage urban landscapes – and the way we model them. (This paper is open access as of January 1, 2017!)

I was thrilled to be able to contribute to 3 papers in 2016. 

Turner, V.K., Jarden, K.M., and Jefferson, A.J., 2016. Resident perspectives on green infrastructure in an experimental suburban stormwater management programCities and the Environment, 9(1): art. 4.

In 2015, my team published a paper showing how the installation of bioretention cells, rain gardens, and rain barrels on a residential street in the Cleveland area substantially decreased stormwater runoff. This paper represents the other side of the story – the side that is, just as important (if not more so) – how the people on the street responded to the addition of this green infrastructure. In short, getting residents on board with stormwater management is a big challenge that we’re going to face as we scale-up from demonstration projects to widespread deployment of these technologies. (This paper is open access and free to all.)

Bell, C.D., McMillan, S.K., Clinton, S.M., and Jefferson, A.J., 2016. Hydrologic response to stormwater control measures in urban watershedsJournal of Hydrology. Online ahead of print. doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2016.08.049.

Bell, C.D., McMillan, S.K., Clinton, S.M., and Jefferson, A.J., 2016. Characterizing the Effects of Stormwater Mitigation on Nutrient Export and Stream ConcentrationsEnvironmental Management. doi:10.1007/s00267-016-0801-4

I’m thrilled that first author Colin Bell completed his doctorate in 2016 and got two papers out to boot. These papers are the culmination of 5 years of research in Charlotte, North Carolina. In the Journal of Hydrology, we try to disentangle the effects of stormwater management from the overall signal of urbanization across 16 watersheds. It turns out that for the level of stormwater management we see in the real world, it’s not enough to counter-act the effects of impervious surfaces (pavement and rooftops) as a driver of the hydrologic behavior of urban streams. In Environmental Management, we aim to understand the influence of stormwater ponds and wetlands on water quality in the receiving streams. This turns out to be quite tricky, because the placement of stormwater management structures spatially correlates with changes in land use, but based on differences in concentration between stormwater structure outflow and the stream, we show that it should be possible. This echoes the findings from our 2015 paper using water isotopes to understand stormwater management influences at one of the same sites. Colin will have another paper or two coming out of his modeling work in the next year or so, and we’re still analyzing more data from this project, so keep your eyes out for more work along these lines.

Stormwater management is all around you. Can you #SpotTheSCM?

realscientistsFor a week in October 2016, I had over 38,000 twitter followers as I took a turn hosting the @realscientists account. Of course, I spent a bunch of my time preaching the gospel of stormwater management. Here are tweets over two days synopsizing its history in 140 character bites. (Please note that the account is hosted by a different scientist each week. The image attached to these tweets is that of the current @realscientists host, not a crazy makeover of Anne.)

On Thursday of @highlyanne’s week @realscientists, she was putting finishing touches on a research proposal to do new, cool science on stormwater managment. She also wanted to get people to realize that stormwater managment is already happening in their neighborhoods, so #SpotTheSCM was born.

What is stormwater? And how did we get to where we are today?

realscientistsFor a week in October 2016, I had over 38,000 twitter followers as I took a turn hosting the @realscientists account. Of course, I spent a bunch of my time preaching the gospel of stormwater management. Here are tweets over two days synopsizing its history in 140 character bites. (Please note that the account is hosted by a different scientist each week. The image attached to these tweets is that of the current @realscientists host, not a crazy makeover of Anne.)

Water Management Association of Ohio conference abstract: A Neighborhood-Scale Green Infrastructure Retrofit

I was asked to submit an abstract for the Water Management Association of Ohio conference in November. I’m going to try to sum up 4 years worth of work on the green infrastructure retrofit we’ve been studying in Parma, and I’m looking forward to learning about from the other presenters at this very applied conference.

A Neighborhood-Scale Green Infrastructure Retrofit: Experimental Results, Model Simulations, and Resident Perspectives

Anne J. Jefferson, Pedro M. Avellaneda, Kimberly M. Jarden, V. Kelly Turner, Jennifer M. Grieser

There is growing interest in distributed green infrastructure approaches to stormwater management that can be retrofit into existing development, but there are relatively few studies that demonstrate effectiveness of these approaches at the neighborhood scale. In suburban northeastern Ohio, homeowners on a residential street with 55% impervious surface were given the opportunity to receive free rain barrels, rain gardens, and bioretention cells. Of 163 parcels, only 22 owners (13.5%) chose to participate, despite intense outreach efforts. After pre-treatment monitoring, 37 rain barrels, 7 rain gardens, and 16 street-side bioretention cells were installed in 2013-2014. The monitoring results indicate that the green infrastructure succeeded in reducing peak flows by up to 33% and total runoff volume by up to 40% per storm. The lag time between precipitation and stormflow also increased. A calibrated and validated SWMM model was built to explore the long-term effectiveness of the green infrastructure under 20 years of historical precipitation data. Model results confirm that green infrastructure reduced surface runoff and increased infiltration and evaporation. The model shows that the green infrastructure is capable of reducing flows by >40% at the 1, 2, and 5 year return period, and that, in this project, more benefit is derived from the street-side bioretention cells than from the rain barrels and gardens that treat rooftop runoff. Surveys indicate that many residents viewed stormwater as the city’s problem and had negative perceptions of green infrastructure, despite slightly pro-environment values generally. Substantial hydrological gains were achieved despite low homeowner participation. The project showcases the value of careful experimental design and monitoring to quantify the effects of a green infrastructure project. Finally, the calibrated model allows us to explore a wider range of hydrologic dynamics than can be captured by a monitoring program.

Surface runoff from a closed landfill and the effects on wetland suspended sediment and water quality

Watershed Hydrology lab undergraduate Cody Unferdorfer will be representing the lab at this year’s Geological Society of America meeting in Denver in September. The work that he will be presenting will build on preliminary work that won the Kent State University Undergraduate Research Symposium Geology/Geography division in April, and Cody will have more and better data and analyses to show of at GSA.

Update: Cody will be giving a poster in the session on Undergraduate Research Projects in Hydrogeology on Sunday.

Surface runoff from a closed landfill and the effects on wetland suspended sediment and water quality

Cody Unferdorfer (1), Anne Jefferson (1), Lauren Kinsman-Costello (2), Hayley Buzulencia (1), Laura Sugano (1)
1. Department of Geology, Kent State University
2. Department of Biological Sciences, Kent State University

Abstract
During rainstorms, many wetlands receive surface runoff carrying sediment and dissolved materials. Some of the sediment and solutes remain within the wetland, where they impact aquatic organisms and nutrient cycling. With time, excess sediment can fill in a water body and destroy the aquatic ecosystem, or excess nutrients can lead to eutrophication. Closed landfills have compacted surfaces that can generate large amounts of surface runoff, and the goal of this project is to examine the effects of a closed landfill’s runoff on a wetland.

The study site is a constructed wetland in Parma, Ohio. Water samples were collected during storms beginning in July 2015. We monitored five locations at the wetland: inflow from the landfill; inflow from two green infrastructure treatment trains; inflow from a stream seep, and outflow. Water samples were analyzed for suspended sediment concentration, water stable isotopes, and dissolved forms of nitrogen and phosphorus. Discharge was measured at the outflow.

Based on a preliminary analysis of four storms, of the inflows; the landfill contributes the most suspended sediment with an average of 400 mg/L. There is no correlation between TSS and discharge at the outflow. Instead a first flush effect was observed, where TSS concentrations decreased with time. The landfill inflow is close to the wetland outflow, which could allow for suspended sediment to bypass most interaction with the wetland’s interior. However, comparing rain and wetland outflow stable isotopes shows that water residence time often exceeds a single storm, suggesting that there are opportunities for biogeochemical processing of nutrient inputs within the wetland.

Runoff from the landfill (right) enters the wetland (left) near the wetland's outlet structure. What impact does this muddy water have on the wetland itself? Photo by a Watershed Hydrology lab member, August 7, 2015.

Runoff from the landfill (right) enters the wetland (left) near the wetland’s outlet structure. What impact does this muddy water have on the wetland itself? Photo by a Watershed Hydrology lab member, August 7, 2015.

CUAHSI cyberseminars on Urban Streams

Green infrastructure, groundwater and the sustainable city
Larry Band, Institute for the Environment at University of North Carolina

Watershed context and the evolution of urban streams
Derek Booth, Bren School of Environmental Management at UC Santa Barbara

The Little Stringybark Creek project
Tim Fletcher, University of Melbourne

Contaminants of emerging concern as agents of ecological change in urban streams
Emma Rosi-Marshall, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and Baltimore Ecosystem Study

Stormwater-Stream Connectivity: Process, Context, and Tradeoffs
Anne Jefferson, Kent State University

Green infrastructure research featured on Kent Wired

Kent Wired, the electronic version of Kent State University’s student media, ran a story on Saturday about the work Kimm Jarden and I have been doing on the effectiveness of green infrastructure retrofits in a neighborhood in Parma, Ohio.  Hopefully I’ll have more to say about this in the next few days. In the meantime, if you want a glimpse of what we’ve been up to, you can check out the news article here.

Hydrologic response to watershed metrics describing urban development and mitigation with stormwater control measures

Watershed Hydrology lab collaborator and Ph.D. candidate Colin Bell will be giving a talk in T106. From Green Roofs and Gutters to Urban Streams: Advancing Urban Watershed Hydrology through Innovative Field and Modeling Approaches on Monday, 2 November 2015 at 2:25 pm in Room 342 (Baltimore Convention Center).

HYDROLOGIC RESPONSE TO WATERSHED METRICS DESCRIBING URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND MITIGATION WITH STORMWATER CONTROL MEASURES

BELL, Colin D., Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, MCMILLAN, Sara K., Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2093, JEFFERSON, Anne J., Department of Geology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242 and CLINTON, Sandra, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC 28223, bell137@purdue.edu

Stormwater control measures (SCMs) are designed to mitigate changes in hydrologic response to hydrometeorological forcing caused by urban development. Total imperviousness (TI) is a metric that effectively quantifies this urban development, but does not contain information about the extent of SCM mitigation within the watershed. The hydrologic records of 16 urban watersheds in Charlotte, NC spanning a range of TI (4.1 to 54%) and mitigation with SCMs (1.3% to 89%) were analyzed to identify which of a suite of easily-determined watershed metrics best predict hydrologic behavior. We tested the watershed metrics TI, percent forested coverage, impervious area unmitigated by SCMs, effective impervious area, percent SCM-mitigated area, and a newly-developed metric called the mitigation factor. Linear models proved TI to be the best predictor of the 10th, 30th, 50th, 70th, and 90th percentiles of the distributions of peak unit discharge and rainfall-runoff ratios. In addition, TI was the best predictor of a watershed’s ability to buffer small rain events and the rate at which a stream responds once that buffering capacity is exceeded. Additional variables describing hydrograph record flashiness and water yield were best correlated to unmitigated imperviousness and forest coverage, respectively. For the range of watersheds considered, simple metrics that quantify SCM mitigation of both total watershed area and impervious area were neither the strongest primary control nor a consistent, secondary control on storm event behavior across sites. The dominance of TI as a control on hydrology over metrics of stormwater mitigation could either be attributed to the range of sites considered (14 out of 16 sites had less than 20% SCM mitigated area) or because the watershed metrics were not able to consider the spatial arrangement of impervious surfaces and SCMs. Our results have implications for policy makers designing standards that seek to minimize stream ecosystem degradation due to hydrologic disturbances from urbanization.

Quantifying the influences of stormwater control measures on urban headwater streamflow

The Watershed Hydrology Lab will be at the Geological Society of America meeting in November in Baltimore. Anne will be giving an invited talk in the Urban Geochemistry session (T32) on Sunday, November 1st at 9 am in BCC room 308. Here’s what she’ll be talking about:

Quantifying the influences of stormwater control measures on urban headwater streamflow

Anne Jefferson1, Colin Bell2, Sara McMillan2, and Sandra Clinton3
1. Department of Geology, Kent State University, 221 McGilvrey Hall, Kent, OH 44242 USA. Phone: 1-330-672-2746 Email: ajeffer9@kent.edu
2. Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
3. Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223, USA.

Stormwater control measures are designed to mitigate the hydrological consequences of urbanization, but their as-built effectiveness in altering patterns of urban streamflow remains poorly quantified. Stream gaging and water stable isotopes were used to understand the effects of stormwater ponds and wetlands on hydrograph characteristics and water sourcing in four urban headwater streams in Charlotte, North Carolina. At the small watershed scale (0.15-1.5 km2), runoff ratio and peak discharge are more strongly related to impervious area than area treated by stormwater controls. For one stream during 10 events, we used stable isotopes to quantify contributions of retention pond discharge to streamflow, taking advantage of the unique isotope signature of pond outflow. The pond, which drains 25% of the watershed’s impervious area, contributed an average of 10% (0-21%) of the streamflow on the rising limb and 12% (0-19%) of discharge at peak flow. During recession, this pond contributed an average of 32% (11-54%) of the stream’s discharge, reflecting the pond’s design goals of temporarily storing and delaying runoff. The isotopic signature of the pond’s discharge also reveals varying water residence times (hours to weeks) within the structure, which may have implications for nutrient and metal fluxes into the stream. Our results suggest that even when individual stormwater control measures are working as designed, they are insufficient to fully mitigate the effects of urbanization on stream hydrology. They also demonstrate the combination of traditional hydrometric and tracer-based techniques can reveal a nuanced view of stormwater influences on urban streams. Such hydrological nuance will be necessary to develop strong mechanistic understanding of biogeochemical processes in urban streams and watersheds.