An integrated modeling approach for estimating hydrologic responses to future urbanization and climate changes in a mixed-use midwestern watershed

J Environ Manage. 2018 Aug 15;220:149-162. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.05.025. Epub 2018 May 18.


Future urban development and climatic changes are likely to affect hydrologic regimes in many watersheds. Quantifying potential water regime changes caused by these stressors is therefore crucial for enabling decision makers to develop viable environmental management strategies. This study presents an approach that integrates mid-21st century impervious surface growth estimates derived from the Imperviousness Change Analysis Tool with downscaled climate model projections and a hydrologic model Soil and Water Assessment Tool to characterize potential water regime changes in a mixed-use watershed in central Missouri, USA. Results for the climate change only scenario showed annual streamflow and runoff decreases (-10.7% and -9.2%) and evapotranspiration increases (+6.8%), while results from the urbanization only scenario showed streamflow and runoff increases (+3.8% and +9.3%) and evapotranspiration decreases (-2.4%). Results for the combined impacts scenario suggested that climatic changes could have a larger impact than urbanization on annual streamflow, (overall decrease of -6.1%), and could largely negate surface runoff increases caused by urbanization. For the same scenario, climatic changes exerted a stronger influence on annual evapotranspiration than urbanization (+3.9%). Seasonal results indicated that the relative influences of urbanization and climatic changes vary seasonally. Climatic changes most greatly influenced streamflow and runoff during winter and summer, and evapotranspiration during summer. During some seasons the directional change for hydrologic processes matched for both stressors. This work presented a practicable approach for investigating the relative influences of mid-21st century urbanization and climatic changes on the hydrology of a representative mixed-use watershed, adding to a limited body of research on this topic. This was done using a transferrable approach that can be adapted for watersheds in other regions.

Keywords: Climate change; Hydrologic modeling; SWAT; Urban growth modeling; Urbanization.

MeSH terms

  • Climate Change*
  • Hydrology
  • Missouri
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Rivers
  • Urbanization*
  • Water Movements
  • Water Supply*