Effects of suburban development on runoff generation in the Croton River basin, New York, USA

Douglas Burns, Tomas Vitvar, Jeffrey McDonnell, James Hassett, Jonathan Duncan, Carol Kendall

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225 Scopus citations


The effects of impervious area, septic leach-field effluent, and a riparian wetland on runoff generation were studied in three small (0.38-0.56 km 2) headwater catchments that represent a range of suburban development (high density residential, medium density residential, and undeveloped) within the Croton River basin, 70 km north of New York City. Precipitation, stream discharge, and groundwater levels were monitored at 10-30 min intervals for 1 year, and stream water and groundwater samples were collected biweekly for δ18O, NO3-, and SO42- analysis for more than 2 years during an overlapping period in 2000-2002. Data from 27 storms confirmed that peak magnitudes increased and recession time decreased with increasing development, but lags in peak arrival and peak discharge/mean discharge were greatest in the medium density residential catchment, which contains a wetland in which storm runoff is retained before entering the stream. Baseflow during a dry period from Aug. 2001-Feb. 2002 was greatest in the high-density residential catchment, presumably from the discharge of septic effluent through the shallow groundwater system and into the stream. In contrast, moderate flows during a wet period from Mar.-Aug. 2002 were greatest in the undeveloped catchment, possibly as a result of greater subsurface storage or greater hydraulic conductivity at this site. The mean residence time of baseflow was about 30 weeks at all three catchments, indicating that human influence was insufficient to greatly affect the groundwater recharge and discharge properties that determine catchment residence time. These results suggest that while suburban development and its associated impervious surfaces and storm drains accelerate the transport of storm runoff into streams, the combined effects of remnant natural landscape features such as wetlands and human alterations such as deep groundwater supply and septic systems can change the expected effects of human development on storm runoff and groundwater recharge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-281
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Sep 15 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


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