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Linking Land Cover and Water Quality in New York City's Water Supply Watersheds

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Abstract:The Catskill/Delaware reservoirs supply 90% of New York City's drinking water. The City has implemented as series of watershed protection measures, including land acquisition, aimed at preserving water quality in the Catskill/Delaware watersheds. The objective of this study was to examine how relationships between landscape and surface water measurements change between years. Thirty-two drainage areas delineated from surface water sample points (total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and fecal coliform bacteria concentrations) were used in stepwise regression analyses to test landscape and surface-water quality relationships. Two measurements of land use, percent agriculture and percent urban development, were positively related to water quality and consistently present in all regression models. Together these two land uses explained 25 to 75% of the regression model variation. However, the contribution of agriculture to water quality condition showed a decreasing trend with time as overall agricultural land cover decreased. Results from this study demonstrate that relationships between land cover and surface water concenctrations of total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and fecal coliform bacteria counts over a large area can be evaluated using a relatively simple geographic information system method. Land managers may find this method useful for targeting resources in relation to a particular water quality concern, focusing best management efforts, and maximizing benefits to water quality with minimal costs.
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Citation:Mehaffey, M. H., M. S. Nash, T. G. Wade, C. M. Edmonds, D. W. Ebert, K. B. Jones, and A. H. Rager. Linking Land Cover and Water Quality in New York City's Water Supply Watersheds. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING & ASSESSMENT 107:29-44, (2005).
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Contact: Chris Siebert - (702) 798-2234 or siebert.christopher@epa.gov
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Division: Environmental Sciences Division
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Branch: Landscape Ecology Branch
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Product Type: Journal
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Published: 09/09/2005
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Bullet Item Linking Land Cover and Water Quality in New York City's Water Supply Watersheds
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Related Entries:
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Bullet Item Development of Landscape Indicators for Use in Regional Ecological Risk Assessments
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