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News Release

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey

Release: May 13, 2002
Chris Konrad
253-428-3600, ext. 2634

Study Helps Measure Effects of Development on Urban Streams

Urban development has increased storm water runoff into some western Washington streams, possibly impacting salmon habitat, drinking water, and erosion, according to a report released today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology).

Specific streamflow statistics evaluated in the study will help Ecology monitor the effects of development on streamflow in urban areas.

Scientists from the USGS and the University of Washington studied long-term streamflow records from 10 streams in western Washington that represent a range of urban development. They found two trends that could be related to urban development, both related to wet-season flow patterns. No consistent changes were identified in average or low streamflows that could be related to urban development.

"We see a change in when the runoff leaves a basin," said USGS hydrologist Chris Konrad, who is coauthor of the report with Derek Booth, director of the Center for Urban Water Resources Management at the University of Washington. "In wet seasons, instead of slowly draining through the soil to feed a stream, the runoff is going quickly downstream as urban development increases."

Storm water is the rainfall that runs off surfaces such as rooftops, pavement, and lawns. As urban development increases, storm water can run quickly into streams, increasing the volume and peak flows and reducing summer flows. Sediment and other contaminants can also be carried into the streams.

The report, "Hydrologic Trends Associated with Urban Development for Selected Streams in the Puget Sound Basin, Washington," by Christopher P. Konrad and Derek B. Booth, is published as U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 02-4040. Copies of the report are available for reading at the U.S. Geological Survey, 1201 Pacific Avenue, Suite 600, Tacoma, WA 98402. Copies can be purchased from the U.S. Geological Survey, Information Services, Box 25286, Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225-0286, telephone 303-202-4200. The report can also be viewed on the Web at

The USGS, a bureau within the Department of the Interior, serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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