State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2009NY120B
Title: Investigation of roadside ditches as contributors to in-stream bank erosion, suspended sediment loads, and degraded water quality across New York
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2009
End Date: 2/28/2010
Congressional District: 22
Focus Categories: Water Quality, Floods, Surface Water
Principal Investigator: Schneider, Rebecca
Federal Funds: $ 0
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 21,474
Abstract: Stormwater runoff has been identified as the number one contributor nation-wide to flooding and to water quality impairment by sediment and other contaminants. Stormwater runoff problems are expected to worsen with increased storm intensity associated with climate change in the Northeast. EPA Phase II Stormwater Regulations (2003) were implemented to address such pollution from small towns, numbering 450 in NY alone. Recently scientific research has switched its focus from agricultural lands to impervious surfaces as a leading source of runoff in watersheds. However, both the science and the new regulations have overlooked a critical contributing element - roadside ditches. Our research, conducted over the past three years in 6 watersheds in s.c. New York, has documented that roadside ditches directly contribute to runoff problems by extending the natural drainage network, by capturing and shunting shallow runoff rapidly to the streams, and by acting as a source of sediment and other contaminants where ditches are scraped and left unvegetated. Additionally, we have observed that ditches also impact in-stream erosion processes through the formation of bedload deltas at the ditch outfalls and through chronic discharge of high velocity, erosive flow. We hypothesize that these inputs, distributed randomly throughout each stream channel system, are forcing the streams to re-route their flow, causing erosion along banks, and elevating the suspended sediment loads throughout NY's streams. We propose to build on our existing data framework and document the geomorphic impacts of ditches on streams. The overall approach that will be used in this study will be to quantify and compare cross-sectional and longitudinal profiles in the stream reaches above and below ditch outfalls and also with profiles from reaches of comparable stream size where no ditches occur.

Progress/Completion Report, 2009, PDF

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