Spatial Arrangement of Urban Development: Impacts on Nonpoint Source Pollution

EPA Grant Number: F6C20122
Title: Spatial Arrangement of Urban Development: Impacts on Nonpoint Source Pollution
Investigators: Lipscomb, Monica Renee
Institution: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 2006 through September 1, 2009
Project Amount: $111,172
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Geography , Watersheds , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


This study will inform an understanding of how patterns of urban development can be altered to reduce urban flooding and non-point source nutrient pollution. While many scientific studies have described the ecological and hydrological impacts of increased imperviousness, very little has been discerned regarding impacts of location and pattern of development.

I will examine three hypotheses concerning interaction between land cover and spatial patterns of water and pollutant retention:

  1. Preservation of land in the watershed ridgeline area is as essential as buffer preservation to control of stormwater runoff and non-point source pollution than preserving land along the stream buffer;
  2. Clustered residential design, such as new urbanism, will lead to reduced nonpoint source pollution; more traditional residential design, characterized by more dispersed imperviousness, will lead to increases in runoff and nitrate transport;
  3. Preservation of land and stormwater retention strategies in the low stream-order/headwater subcatchments are more critical to prevent runoff and nutrient transport than preservation of land in the high-stream order/mainstem portion of the watershed.


To address the hypotheses of this study, this research will incorporate:

  • field measurements,
  • GIS-based ecohydrological modeling,
  • landscape metrics, and
  • remote sensing data analysis.

Using this combination of methods, I will develop a model of how the spatial arrangement of development impacts water flow in urban systems.

Expected Results:

Stormwater and water quality management strategies require better information regarding the interaction between development location, patterns, and density influence hydrological processes. Expected results of this study include:

  • a determination of advantageous location and design of neighborhoods to reduce surface runoff;
  • the development of pattern metrics to pinpoint critical areas within other Mid-Atlantic watersheds;

Upon successful completion of this research, I intend to: complete and defend my dissertation; publish several papers on nitrogen ecohydrology in urban areas; and create a brochure documenting the results of my research to be made available at planning offices within the Chesapeake Bay. While working on this research, I will gain the teaching and research experience necessary to prepare myself to become a successful professor in the environmental sciences.

Supplemental Keywords:

water quality, urbanization, nonpoint source pollution, water runoff, nitrogen pollution, urban hydrology, spatial arrangement, pattern metrics,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Ground Water, Water & Watershed, Ecology and Ecosystems, Urban and Regional Planning, Watersheds, alternative urbanization scenarios, valuation of watersheds, runoff, urban runoff, conservation, stormwater drainage, GIS, non-point sources, urbanizing watersheds

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final