UMD Researchers Evaluate Growing Importance of the "Urban Watershed"

UMD Researchers Evaluate Growing Importance of the "Urban Watershed"

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It is hypothesized that within the next two decades, sixty percent of the world's population will be living in urban areas. This concentration of people in cities will require efficient urban drinking water and sanitation solutions.

A new study describes an expanded view of urban water that was published in Urban Ecosystems by the U.S. Forest Service. The study creates a framework for watersheds that are affected by urban land uses.

"Urban ecosystems are a critical part of the landscape and influence the environmental health of entire regions," according to Michael T. Rains, director of the Northern Research Station. "Forest Service research is contributing to meeting the needs of cities and the responsible stewardship of urban natural resources."

Sujay Kaushal, University of Maryland assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, collaborated with Ken Belt, a hydrologist/aquatic ecologist, in defining urban watersheds as four dimensional eco-hydrologic entities that function in time and space. There is a massive system of piping underground, which has profound effects on above-ground stream ecosystems and the people that depend on them.

Time is also an important factor in a larger perspective on urban water. Urban watersheds experience tremendous change over time, both above ground and within their underground networks. Buildings and human activities change on the surface, and trees benefitting from leaked water grow and their root systems extend deep into the subsurface. Below ground, the huge network of pipes ages and changes as technologies and regulatory environments change. These watershed changes exert large effects on their receiving streams.

For more information, visit http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-06/ufs--sse061412.php

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