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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5014

Prepared in cooperation with the City of Middleton, Wisconsin

Evaluation of the Effects of City of Middleton Stormwater-Management Practices on Streamflow and Water-Quality Characteristics of Pheasant Branch, Dane County, Wisconsin, 1975–2008

By Warren A. Gebert, William J. Rose, and Herbert S. Garn

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Few long-term data sets are available for evaluating the effects of urban stormwater-management practices. Over 30 years of data are available for evaluating the effectiveness of such practices by the city of Middleton, Wis. Analysis of streamflow and water-quality data collected on Pheasant Branch, demonstrates the relation between the changes in the watershed to the structural and nonstructural best management practices put in place during 1975–2008. A comparison of the data from Pheasant Branch with streamflow and water-quality data (suspended sediment and total phosphorus) collected at other nearby streams was made to assist in the determination of the possible causes of the changes in Pheasant Branch.

Based on 34 years of streamflow data collected at the Pheasant Branch at Middleton streamflow-gaging station, flood peak discharges increased 37 percent for the 2-year flood and 83 percent for the 100-year flood. A comparison of data for the same period from an adjacent rural stream, Black Earth at Black Earth had a 43 percent increase in the 2-year flood peak discharge and a 140-percent increase in the 100-year flood peak discharge. Because the flood peak discharges on Pheasant Branch have not increased as much as Black Earth Creek it appears that the stormwater management practices have been successful in mitigating the effects of urbanization. Generally urbanization results in increased flood peak discharges. The overall increase in flood peak discharges seen in both streams probably is the result of the substantial increase in precipitation during the study period. Average annual runoff in Pheasant Branch has also been increasing due to increasing average annual precipitation and urbanization.

The stormwater-management practices in Middleton have been successful in decreasing the suspended-sediment and total phosphorus loads to Lake Mendota from the Pheasant Branch watershed. These loads decreased in spite of increased annual runoff and flood peaks, which are often expected to produce higher sediment and phosphorus loads. The biggest decreases in sediment and phosphorus loads occurred after 2001 when a large detention pond, the Confluence Pond, began operation. Since 2001, the annual suspended-sediment load has decreased from 2,650 tons per year to 1,450 tons per year for a 45-percent decrease. The annual total phosphorus load has decreased from 12,200 pounds per year to 6,300 pounds per year for a 48-percent decrease. A comparison of Pheasant Branch at Middleton with two other streams, Spring Harbor Storm Sewer and Yahara River at Windsor, that drain into Lake Mendota shows that suspended-sediment and total phosphorus load decreases were greatest at Pheasant Branch at Middleton. Prior to the construction of the Confluence Pond, annual suspended-sediment yield and total phosphorus yield from Pheasant Branch watershed was the largest of the three watersheds. After 2001, suspended-sediment yield was greatest at Spring Harbor Storm Sewer, and lowest at Yahara at Windsor; annual total phosphorus yield was greater at Yahara River at Windsor than that of Pheasant Branch. The stormwater-quality plan for Middleton shows that the city has met the present State of Wisconsin Administrative Code chap. NR216/NR151 requirements of reducing total suspended solids by 20 percent for the developed area in Middleton. In addition, the city already has met the 40-percent reduction in total suspended solids required by 2013.

Snow and ice melt runoff from road surfaces and parking lots following winter storms can effect water quality because the runoff contains varying amounts of road salt. To evaluate the effect of road deicing on stream water quality in Pheasant Branch, specific conductance and chloride were monitored during two winter seasons. The maximum estimated concentration of chloride during the monitoring period was 931 milligrams per liter, which exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acute criterion of 860 milligrams per liter. Chloride concentrations exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chronic criterion of 230 milligrams per liter for at least 10 days during February and March 2007 and for 45 days during the 2007–8 winter seasons. The total sodium chloride load for the monitoring period was 1,720 tons and the largest sodium chloride load occurred in March and April of each year.

Posted April 24, 2012

For additional information contact:
Director, Wisconsin Water Science Center
8505 Research Way
Middleton, WI 53562
(608) 828–828-9901
(608) 821–3817

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Suggested citation:

Gebert, W.A., Rose, W.J., and Garn, H.S., 2012, Evaluation of the effects of Middleton’s stormwater-management activities on streamflow and water-quality characteristics of Pheasant Branch, Dane County, Wisconsin 1975–2008: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5014, 27 p., plus appendixes available only online at




Stormwater Runoff-Management Practices

Changes in Streamflow Characteristics

Changes in Water-Quality Characteristics

Discussion and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix 1. Storm Water Runoff Control Ordinance Summary (from City of Middleton Storm Water Control Ordinance, Chap 26.0, June 2008)

Appendix 2. Erosion Control Summary (from City of Middleton Erosion Control Ordinance, Chap, 28, June 2008)

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