First Advisor

Heejun Chang

Date of Publication

Spring 5-5-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geography






Water quality management -- Oregon, Water quality -- Oregon -- Willamette River Watershed -- Mathematical models, Urbanization -- Oregon, Precipitation variability -- Oregon, Soil erosion -- Oregon



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 64 pages)


Precipitation changes and urban growth are two factors altering the state of water quality. Changes in precipitation will alter the amount and timing of flows, and the corresponding sediment and nutrient dynamics. Meanwhile, densification associated with urban growth will create more impervious surfaces which will alter sediment and nutrient loadings. Land and water managers often rely on models to develop possible future scenarios and devise management responses to these projected changes. We use the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to assess the sensitivities of stream flow, sediment, and nutrient loads in two urbanizing watersheds in Northwest Oregon, USA to various climate and urbanization scenarios. We evaluate the spatial patterns climate change and urban growth will have on water, sediment and nutrient yields. We also identify critical source areas (CSAs) and investigate how implementation of vegetative filter strips (VFS) could ameliorate the effects of these changes. Our findings suggest that: 1) Water yield is tightly coupled to precipitation. 2) Large increases in winter and spring precipitation provide enough sub-surface storage to increase summertime water yields despite a moderate decrease in summer precipitation. 3) Expansion of urban areas increases surface runoff and has mixed effects on sediment and nutrients. 4) Implementation of VFS reduces pollutant loads helping overall watershed health. This research demonstrates the usefulness of SWAT in facilitating informed land and water management decisions.


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