Modeling flood reduction effects of low impact development at a watershed scale

J Environ Manage. 2016 Apr 15;171:81-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.01.036. Epub 2016 Feb 13.


Low impact development (LID) is a land development approach that seeks to mimic a site's pre-development hydrology. This study is a case study that assessed flood reduction capabilities of large-scale adoption of LID practices in an urban watershed in central Illinois using the Personal Computer Storm Water Management Model (PCSWMM). Two flood metrics based on runoff discharge were developed to determine action flood (43 m(3)/s) and major flood (95 m(3)/s). Four land use scenarios for urban growth were evaluated to determine the impacts of urbanization on runoff and flooding. Flood attenuation effects of porous pavement, rain barrel, and rain garden at various application levels were also evaluated as retrofitting technologies in the study watershed over a period of 30 years. Simulation results indicated that increase in urban land use from 50 to 94% between 1992 and 2030 increased average annual runoff and flood events by more than 30%, suggesting that urbanization without sound management would increase flood risks. The various implementation levels of the three LID practices resulted in 3-47% runoff reduction in the study watershed. Flood flow events that include action floods and major floods were also reduced by 0-40%, indicating that LID practices can be used to mitigate flood risk in urban watersheds. The study provides an insight into flood management with LID practices in existing urban areas.

Keywords: Modeling; PCSWMM; Storm runoff; Urban growth.

MeSH terms

  • City Planning
  • Floods*
  • Hydrology
  • Illinois
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Porosity
  • Rain
  • Urbanization*