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Water quality in agricultural, urban, and mixed land use watersheds

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Coulter, Chris B.; Kolka, Randy K.; Thompson James A.,

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Journal of the American Water Resources Association December: 1593-1601.


Water quality and nonpoint source (NPS) pollution are important issues in many areas of the world, including the Inner Bluegrass Region of Kentucky where urban development is changing formerly rural watersheds into urban and mixed use watersheds. In watersheds where land use is mixed, the relative contributions of NPS pollution from rural and urban land uses can be difficult to separate. To better understand NPS pollution sources in mixed use watersheds, surface water samples were taken at three sites that varied in land use to examine the effect of land use on water quality. Within the group of three watersheds, one was predominately agriculture (Agricultural), one was predominately urban (Urban), and a third had relatively equal representation of both types of land uses (Mixed). Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), total suspended solids (TSS), turbidity, pH, temperature, and streamflow were measured for one year. Comparisons are made among watersheds for concentration and fluxes of water quality parameters. Nitrate and orthophosphate concentrations were found to be significantly higher in the Agricultural watershed. Total suspended solids, turbidity, temperature, and pH, were found to be generally higher in the Urban and Mixed watersheds. No differences were found for streamflow (per unit area), total phosphorus, and ammonium concentrations among watersheds. Fluxes of orthophosphate were greater in the Agricultural watershed that in the Urban watershed while fluxes of TSS were greater in the Mixed watershed when compared to the Agricultural watershed. Fluxes of nitrate, ammonium, and total phosphorus did not vary among watersheds. It is apparent from the data that Agricultural land uses are generally a greater source of nutrients than the Urban land uses while Urban land uses are generally a greater source of suspended sediment.


water quality; nonpoint source pollution; watershed management; urban development; chemical fluxes; rural watersheds; land use effects


Coulter, Chris B.; Kolka, Randy K.; Thompson James A. 2004. Water quality in agricultural, urban, and mixed land use watersheds. Journal of the American Water Resources Association. December: 1593-1601.

Last updated on: August 9, 2021