Volume 519, Part C, 27 November 2014, Pages 2584–2595

Water governance across competing scales: Coupling land and water management

Edited By Katherine A. Daniell and Olivier Barreteau

Incorporating water resources in integrated urban and regional planning

Edited By Claudia L. Baldwin and Paul J. Jeffrey

Effects of distributed and centralized stormwater best management practices and land cover on urban stream hydrology at the catchment scale

  • a U.S. Geological Survey, Eastern Geographic Science Center, 521 National Center, Reston, VA 20192, USA
  • b U.S. Geological Survey, National Research Program, 430 National Center, Reston, VA 20192, USA
  • c U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ORD/NERL/ESD, Landscape Ecology Branch, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, USA


Distributed and centralized stormwater BMPs compared for stream hydrologic effects.

Distributed BMPs led to greater baseflow and lower small-event stream flow response.

Distributed BMPs and forest land cover were linked with low extreme-event runoff.

Low runoff volume and maximum discharge were associated with forest land cover.

Land cover and stormwater BMP distribution affect runoff volume, maximum discharge.


Urban stormwater runoff remains an important issue that causes local and regional-scale water quantity and quality issues. Stormwater best management practices (BMPs) have been widely used to mitigate runoff issues, traditionally in a centralized manner; however, problems associated with urban hydrology have remained. An emerging trend is implementation of BMPs in a distributed manner (multi-BMP treatment trains located on the landscape and integrated with urban design), but little catchment-scale performance of these systems have been reported to date. Here, stream hydrologic data (March, 2011–September, 2012) are evaluated in four catchments located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed: one utilizing distributed stormwater BMPs, two utilizing centralized stormwater BMPs, and a forested catchment serving as a reference. Among urban catchments with similar land cover, geology and BMP design standards (i.e. 100-year event), but contrasting placement of stormwater BMPs, distributed BMPs resulted in: significantly greater estimated baseflow, a higher minimum precipitation threshold for stream response and maximum discharge increases, better maximum discharge control for small precipitation events, and reduced runoff volume during an extreme (1000-year) precipitation event compared to centralized BMPs. For all catchments, greater forest land cover and less impervious cover appeared to be more important drivers than stormwater BMP spatial pattern, and caused lower total, stormflow, and baseflow runoff volume; lower maximum discharge during typical precipitation events; and lower runoff volume during an extreme precipitation event. Analysis of hydrologic field data in this study suggests that both the spatial distribution of stormwater BMPs and land cover are important for management of urban stormwater runoff. In particular, catchment-wide application of distributed BMPs improved stream hydrology compared to centralized BMPs, but not enough to fully replicate forested catchment stream hydrology. Integrated planning of stormwater management, protected riparian buffers and forest land cover with suburban development in the distributed-BMP catchment enabled multi-purpose use of land that provided esthetic value and green-space, community gathering points, and wildlife habitat in addition to hydrologic stormwater treatment.


  • Stormwater best management practices;
  • Low impact development;
  • Distributed treatment systems;
  • Urban hydrology;
  • Land cover;
  • Chesapeake Bay
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 703 648 5134; fax: +1 703 648 4603.