Impacts of Exurban Development on Water Quality

  • Kathleen A. Lohse
  • Adina M. Merenlender


This chapter details the impacts of exurban development on water quantity and quality in the United States. The chapter begins by reviewing studies that document the consequences of urbanization on water quality, with emphasis on exurban development. We show how watersheds are contaminated by a range of organic and inorganic compounds as land use along the rural-to-urban gradient intensifies. These studies indicate the need to evaluate anticipated land-use changes carefully so that watershed conservation is improved. The chapter then describes the use of modeling methods that link land-use change with watershed conservation. A case study of California’s Russian River Basin demonstrates the use of coupled land-use impact/land-use change models as decision-support tools that enable assessment of future land-use change, including exurban land development.


Fecal Coliform Watershed Manager Good Management Practice Residential Density Septic System 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Shane Feirer for assistance on GIS maps and Dave Newburn for his contributions to the Russian River case study and land-use change modeling.


  1. American Water Works Association. 1999. Manual of Water Supply Practices – M48: Waterborne Pathogens. Denver, CO: American Water Works Association.Google Scholar
  2. Azimer, J., and Stone, L. 2003. The Rural West: Diversity and Dilemma. Calgary, Alberta: Canada West Foundation.Google Scholar
  3. Brown, D. G., Johnson, K. M., Loveland, T. R., and Theobald, D. M. 2005. Rural land-use trends in the conterminous United States, 1950–2000. Ecological Applications 15:1851–1863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Butcher, J. B. 1999. Forecasting future land use for watershed assessment. Journal of the American Water Resource Association 35:555–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Callender, E., and Rice, K. C. 2000. The urban environmental gradient: anthropogenic influences on the spatial and temporal distribution of lead and zinc in sediments. Environmental Science and Technology 31:424a–428a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Caraco, N. F., and Cole, J. J. 1999. Human impact on nitrate export: An analysis using major world rivers. Ambio 28:167–170.Google Scholar
  7. Carpenter, S. R., Caraco, N. F., Correll, D. L., Howarth, R. W., Sharpley, A. N., and Smith, V. H. 1998. Nonpoint pollution of surface waters with phosphorus and nitrogen. Ecological Applications 8:559–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chalmers, A. T., Van Metre, P. C., and Callender, E. 2007. The chemical response of particle-associated contaminants in aquatic sediments to urbanization in New England, U.S.A. Contaminant Hydrology 91:4–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chang, M. F. Roth, A., and Hunt, E. V. 1982. Sediment Production Under Various Forest-site Conditions. Wallingford, UK: International Association of Hydrological Sciences.Google Scholar
  10. Doyle, M. P., and Erickson, M. C. 2006. Closing the door on the fecal coliform assay. Microbe 1:162–163.Google Scholar
  11. Dubost, F. 1998. De la maison de campagne à la résidence secondaire. In L’autre Maison: la ‘Résidence Secondaire’, Refuge des Générations, ed. F. Dubost, pp. 10–37, Paris, France: Éditions.Google Scholar
  12. Dunne, T., and Leopold, L. B. 1978. Water in Environmental Planning. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  13. Embrey, S. S., and Runkle, D. L. 2006. Microbial Quality of the Nation’s Groundwater Resources, 1993–2004. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Geological Survey Report 2006–5290.Google Scholar
  14. Field, K. G., and Samadpour, M. 2007. Fecal source tracking, the indicator paradigm, and managing water quality. Water Research 41:3517–3538.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fitzhugh, T. W., and Richter, B. D. 2004. Quenching urban thirst: growing cities and their impacts on freshwater ecosystems. Bioscience 54:741–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gilliom, R. J. 2007. Pesticides in the nation's streams and ground water. Environmental Science and Technology 41:3408–3414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gilliom, R. J., Barbash, J. E., Crawford, C. G., Hamilton, P. A., Martin, J. D., Nakagaki, N., Nowell, L. H., Scott, J. C., Stackelberg, P. E., Thelin, G. P., and Wolock, D. M. 2007. The Quality of Our Nation's Water – Pesticides in the Nation’s Streams and Ground Water, 1992–2001. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Geological Survey.Google Scholar
  18. Gingrich, S. E., and Diamond, M. L. 2001. Atmospherically derived organic surface films along an urban-rural gradient. Environmental Science and Technology 35:4031–4037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grantham., T., Christian-Smith, J., Kondolf, G. M., and Scheuer, S. 2008. A Fresh Perspective for Managing Water in California: Insights from Applying the European Water Framework Directive to the Russian River. Berkeley, CA: University of California Water Resources Center, available at: Accessed October 15, 2008.
  20. Groffman, P. M., Law, N. L., Belt, K. T., Band. L. E., and Fisher, G. T. 2004. Nitrogen fluxes and retention in urban watershed ecosystems. Ecosystems 7:393–403.Google Scholar
  21. Hansen, A. J., Knight, R. L., Marzluff, J. M., Powell, S., Brown, K., Gude, P. H., and Jones, A. 2005. Effects of exurban development on biodiversity: Patterns, mechanisms, and research needs. Ecological Applications 15:1893–1905.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heimlich, R. E., and Anderson, W. D. 2001. Development at the Urban Fringe and Beyond: Impacts on Agriculture and Rural Land. Washington, D.C.: Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.Google Scholar
  23. Hopkins, L. D., and Zapata, M. A. 2007. Engaging the Future. Cambridge, MA: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.Google Scholar
  24. Howarth, R. W., Billen, G., Swaney, D., Townsend, A., Jaworski, N., Lajtha, K., Downing, J. A., Elmgren, R., Caraco, N., Jordan, T., Berendse, F., Freney, J., Kudeyarov, V., Murdoch, P., and Zhao-liang, Z. 1996. Regional nitrogen budgets and riverine N & P fluxes for the drainages to the North Atlantic Ocean: Natural and human influences. Biogeochemistry 35:181–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kaushal, S. S., Lewis, W. M., and McCutchan, J. H. 2006. Land use change and nitrogen enrichment of a Rocky Mountain watershed. Ecological Applications 16:299–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kolpin, D. W., Furlong, E. T., Meyer, M. T., Thurman, E. M., Zaugg, S. D., Barber, L. B., and Buxton, H. T. 2002. Pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, 1999–2000: A national reconnaissance. Environmental Science and Technology 36:1201–1211.Google Scholar
  27. Lewis, D. B., and Grimm, N. B. 2007. Hierarchical regulations on nitrogen export from urban catchments: Interactions of storms and landscapes. Ecological Applications 17:2347–2364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lohse, K. A., Newburn, D. A., Opperman, J. J., and Merenlender, A. M. 2008. Forecasting the relative impacts of land use on fine sediment in anadromous fish habitat to guide development and conservation programs. Ecological Applications 18(2):467–482.Google Scholar
  29. Mahler, B. J., and Van Metre, P. C. 2006. Trends in metals in urban and reference lake sediments across the United States, 1970 to 2001. Environmental Science and Technology 25:1698–1709.Google Scholar
  30. Mahler, B. J., Van Metre, P. C., Bashara, T. J., Wilson, J. T., and Johns, D. A. 2005. Parking lot sealcoat: An unrecognized source of urban polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Environmental Science and Technology 39:5560–5566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Miller, J. R., and Miller, S. M. O. 2007. Contaminated Rivers: A Geomorphological-Geochemical Approach to Site Assessment and Remediation. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Mueller, D. K., and Spahr, N. E. 2006. Nutrients in Streams and Rivers Across the Nation—1992–2001. Washington, D.C.: U. S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006–5107.Google Scholar
  33. National Research Council. 2004. Confronting the Nation's Water Problems: The Role of Research. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  34. Newburn, D. A., and Berck, P. 2006. Modeling suburban and rural residential development beyond the urban fringe. Land Economics 82:481–499.Google Scholar
  35. Nilsson, C., J. Pizzuto, E., Moglen, G. E., Palmer, M. A., Stanley, E. H., Bockstael, N. E., and Thompson, L. C. 2003. Ecological forecasting and the urbanization of stream ecosystems: challenges for economists, hydrologists, geomorphologists, and ecologists. Ecosystems 6:659–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Opperman, J. J., Lohse, K. A., Brooks, C., Kelly, N. M., and Merenlender, A. M. 2005. Influence of land use on fine sediment in salmonid spawning gravels within the Russian River Basin, California. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 62:2740–2751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Peterson, G. D., Beard, T. D., Beisner, B. E., Bennet, E. M., Carpenter, S. R., Cumming, G. S., Dent, C. L., and Havlicek, T. D. 2003. Assessing future ecosystem services a case study of the Northern Highlands Lake District, Wisconsin. Conservation Ecology 7, online. Available at: Accessed November 18, 2008.
  38. Pimentel, D., and Kounang, N. 1998. Ecology of soil erosion in ecosystems. Ecosystems 1:416–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pizzuto, J. E., Hession, W. C., and McBride, M. 2000. Comparing gravel-bed rivers in paired urban and rural catchments of southeastern Pennsylvania. Geology 28:79–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rice, K. C. 1999. Trace element concentrations in streambed sediment across the conterminous United States. Environmental Science and Technology 33:2499–2504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Richards, C., Johnson, L. B., and Host, G. E. 1996. Landscape-scale influences on stream habitats and biota. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 53:295–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schoonover, J. E., and Lockaby, B. G. 2006. Land cover impacts on stream nutrients and fecal coliform in the lower Piedmont of West Georgia. Journal of Hydrology 331:371–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sorensen, J. A., Glass, G. E., Schimdt, K. W., Huber, J. K., and Rapp, G. R. 1990. Airborne mercury deposition and watershed characteristics in relation to mercury concentrations in water, sediment plankton, and fish of eighty northern Minnesota lakes. Environmental Science and Technology 24:1716–1727.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sprague, L., and Nowell, L. H. 2008. Comparison of pesticide concentrations in streams at low flow in six metropolitan areas of the United States. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 27:288–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sutherland, A. B., Meyer, J. L., and Gardiner, E. P. 2002. Effects of land cover on sediment regime and fish assemblage structure in four southern Appalachian streams. Freshwater Biology 47:1791–1805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sutton, P. C., Cova, T. J., and Elvidge, C. 2006. Mapping exurbia in the conterminous United States using nighttime satellite imagery. Geocarto International 21:39–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Theobald, D. M. 2001. Land use dynamics beyond the American urban fringe. Geographical Review 91:544–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Theobald, D. M. 2003. Targeting conservation action through assessment of protection and exurban threats. Conservation Biology 17:1624–1637.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Theobald, D. M. 2004. Placing exurban land use change in a human modification framework. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2:139–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Trimble, S. W. 1997. Contribution of stream channel erosion to sediment yield from an urbanizing watershed. Science 278:1442–1444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. US EPA. 1997. The Incidence and Severity of Sediment Contamination in Surface Waters of the United States. Washington, D. C.: EPA-823-R-97-006.Google Scholar
  52. US EPA. 2000. The National Water Quality Inventory: 2000 Report to Congress. Washington, D.C.: US Environmental Protection Agency.Google Scholar
  53. Van Metre, P. C., and Mahler, B. J. 2005. Trends in hydrophobic organic contaminants in urban and reference lake sediments across the United States, 1970–2001. Environmental Science and Technology 39:5567–5574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Van Metre, P. C., Callender, E., and Fuller, C. C. 1997. Historical trends in organochlorine compounds in river basins identified using sediment cores from reservoirs. Environmental Science and Technology 31:2339–2344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Van Metre, P. C., Mahler, B. J., and Furlong, E. T. 2000. Urban sprawl leaves its signature. Environmental Science and Technology 34:4064–4070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Van Metre, P. C., Wilson, J. T., Callender, E., and Fuller, C. C. 1998. Similar rates of decrease of persistent, hydrophobic contaminants in riverine systems. Environmental Science and Technology 32:3312–3317.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Waters, T. F. 1995. Sediment in Streams: Sources, Biological Effects and Controls. Bethesda, MD: American Fisheries Society.Google Scholar
  58. Wohl, N. E., and Carline, R. F. 1996. Relations among riparian grazing, sediment loads, macroinvertebrates, and fishes in three central Pennsylvania streams. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 53:260–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. World Health Organization. 2008. Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Links to Health: Facts and Figures, updated November 2004. Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Natural Resources, University of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science, Policy and ManagementCollege of Natural Resources, University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations