Controlling urban growth, increasing forested land may prevent floods

Washington, Aug 20 (ANI): A new study has suggested that a check on urban growth and increasing forested land are the most effective ways to decrease future water runoff and flooding.

Bryan Pijanowski of the Purdue University used a model to simulate Michigan's Muskegon River watershed runoff rates from 1900 through the present and forecast them 30 years into the future.

Several scenarios, including forest regrowth, urbanization, and buffers between development and streams, were analyzed to estimate their impact on rivers and streams.

"Changes in the land's surface feed back to runoff. Urban sprawl and impervious surfaces are the biggest culprits. If you're able to control development, it is the most effective way to save our river ecosystem," said Pijanowski.

Pijanowski said urban areas in the United States would double in 20 years at the current rate. In the model predictions, doubling the urban area in the Muskegon River watershed would increase runoff by 1 1/2 times.

Pijanowski's findings suggested that slowing the rate of urban sprawl would be the most effective way to reduce or control runoff. Adding forest near rivers and streams and requiring buffer zones between those waterways and development also could help.

Pijanowski used historical data - including census information, aerial photos and housing statistics - to build historical landscapes back to the early 1900s. That data was fed into the Land Transformation Model, developed at Purdue, to determine historical runoff rates.

Predictions from the present through 2030 also were created using the model.

Assumptions for those predictions were created by local governments, state agencies and non-governmental groups working around the Muskegon River based on their knowledge of development and other area trends.

The study was published in the journal Environmental Management. (ANI)

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