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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5103

Prepared in cooperation with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation

Effects of Urban Best Management Practices on Streamflow and Phosphorus and Suspended-Sediment Transport on Englesby Brook in Burlington, Vermont, 2000–2010

By Laura Medalie

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.97 MB)Abstract

An assessment of the effectiveness of several urban best management practice structures, including a wet extended detention facility and a shallow marsh wetland (together the “wet extended detention ponds”), was made using data collected from 2000 through 2010 at Englesby Brook in Burlington, Vermont. The purpose of the best management practices was to reduce high streamflows and phosphorus and suspended-sediment loads and concentrations and to increase low streamflows. Englesby Brook was monitored for streamflow, phosphorus, and suspended-sediment concentrations at a streamgage downstream of the best management practice structures for 5 years before the wet extended detention ponds were constructed in 2005 and for 4 years (phosphorus and suspended-sediment concentrations) or 5 years (streamflow) after they were constructed.

The period after construction of the best management practice structures was wetter and had higher discharges than the period before construction. Despite the wetter conditions, streamflow duration curves provided evidence that the streamflow regime appeared to have shifted so that the percentages of low streamflows have increased and those of high streamflows may have slightly decreased. Two other hydrologic measures showed improvements in the years following construction of the best management practices: the percentage of annual discharge transported during the 3 days with highest discharges and the number of days with zero streamflow have both decreased.

Evidence was mixed for the effectiveness of the best management practices in reducing phosphorus and suspended-sediment concentrations and loads. Annual phosphorus and suspended-sediment loads, monthly loads, low-streamflow concentrations, storm-averaged streamflow-adjusted concentrations, and total storm loads either did not change significantly or increased in the period after construction. These results likely were because of the wetter conditions in the period after construction. For example, monthly loads assessed using analysis of covariance, which compensated for the effects of streamflow on loads, suggested no difference in phosphorus or suspended-sediment loads between the two periods, whereas the comparison of monthly loads without factoring in streamflow showed an increase. This result could be viewed as evidence that the ponds may have mitigated the effect of greater discharges in the period after construction by preventing a corresponding increase in loads. In another analysis used to adjust for the difference in discharge between the two comparison periods, annual and monthly load results were grouped into dry and wet years. Large (50 percent) reductions in annual loads were observed when data from dry (or wet) years before construction were compared with data from dry (or wet) years after construction. When paired monthly loads of each constituent were grouped into dry and wet years, approximately the same number of months had increases as did decreases with the magnitudes of the decreases generally larger than the magnitudes of the increases. These differences in magnitude explain the decrease in annual loads for dry and wet years. The close association of phosphorus with suspended-sediment data suggested that most of the phosphorus was in the particulate form and was controlled by suspended-sediment dynamics.

First posted July 18, 2012

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
New Hampshire-Vermont Water Science Center
331 Commerce Way, Suite 2
Pembroke, NH 03275
(603) 226–7800

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Suggested citation:

Medalie, Laura, 2012, Effects of urban best management practices on streamflow and phosphorus and suspended-sediment transport on Englesby Brook in Burlington, Vermont, 2000–2010: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5103, 26 p., at




Methods of Sampling and Analysis

Effects of Best Management Practices

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

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