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Utilization of GIS to generate a watershed sedimentation potential index


, : Utilization of GIS to generate a watershed sedimentation potential index. American Water Resources Association Technical Publication Series TPS 02-1(Pages 55-60

Effective watershed monitoring programs for nonpoint source contaminants, such as excessive sediment, must include techniques to characterize and specify areas of potential pollutant generation. Physical characteristics of habitat status, sediment depth and embeddedness at sample sites are indicators of sediment stress but cannot establish the upstream watershed runoff potential. Neither can chemical characteristics, such as total suspended solids of the water column, establish the substrate's sediment load and its effects on aquatic organisms. To quantify the upstream watershed sedimentation characteristics of the Cahaba River and several tributaries in north central Alabama, a soil erosion potential model was constructed using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing technologies. The cartographic model consisted of selected data layers for the study area, including NRCS soils, multispectral satellite imagery, parcel level land use, and a Digital Elevation Model. The derived layers were then combined to yield measurable areas for the determined characteristics. A Sedimentation Potential Index (SPI) was calculated for each watershed and correlated with habitat conditions and sediment depths at sample sites within each watershed, and with upstream watershed land usage. The biological status of aquatic ecosystems was evaluated using U.S. EPA Rapid Bioassessment Protocols. SPI values were strongly correlated with sediment depths and specific biological indicator metrics at sample sites in the same watersheds. Thus, preliminary results indicate that the SPI is a useful predictor of the likelihood that development in the watershed will lead to sediment-degradation of water and habitat quality.

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