Simulating the impact of roads on hydrological responses: examples from Swedish terrain

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

In this study, the potential impacts of road topography on hydrologic responses at the watershed scale were simulated. The method considered used a geographic information system to identify road embankment locations and subsequently remove them from the baseline elevation data. Starting from both the ‘with’ and ‘without’ road elevation model, the surface and near-surface hydrological responses for 20 watersheds in Sweden were modeled in HEC-HMS under three different storm intensities. Flow duration curves (FDCs) were used to compare hydrologic responses for the different modeling scenarios under the various storm intensities. Specifically, L-moment ratios of the FDCs were calculated and their variation compared. Results showed an increase in peak flow amounts and reduction in time to peak with increased storm intensity. In addition, variations of the L-moment ratios were larger in larger watersheds. However, the impact of the roads on the modeled hydrologic responses was much smaller than anticipated and only identifiable through detailed examination of the L-moment statistical descriptors. Our findings not only highlight the potential impacts of road topography on watershed-scale hydrology (especially concerning high intensity storms) but also provide a methodology for detecting the even rather small changes that could manifest, for example, under coupled road network and climatic changes.

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