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Techniques and Methods 4-C3

Prepared in cooperation with the
Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration,
Office of Project Development and Environmental Review

Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM) Version 1.0.0

By Gregory E. Granato

image of front cover Abstract

The Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM) is designed to transform complex scientific data into meaningful information about the risk of adverse effects of runoff on receiving waters, the potential need for mitigation measures, and the potential effectiveness of such management measures for reducing these risks. The U.S. Geological Survey developed SELDM in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration to help develop planning-level estimates of event mean concentrations, flows, and loads in stormwater from a site of interest and from an upstream basin. Planning-level estimates are defined as the results of analyses used to evaluate alternative management measures; planning-level estimates are recognized to include substantial uncertainties (commonly orders of magnitude). SELDM uses information about a highway site, the associated receiving-water basin, precipitation events, stormflow, water quality, and the performance of mitigation measures to produce a stochastic population of runoff-quality variables. SELDM provides input statistics for precipitation, prestorm flow, runoff coefficients, and concentrations of selected water-quality constituents from National datasets. Input statistics may be selected on the basis of the latitude, longitude, and physical characteristics of the site of interest and the upstream basin. The user also may derive and input statistics for each variable that are specific to a given site of interest or a given area.

SELDM is a stochastic model because it uses Monte Carlo methods to produce the random combinations of input variable values needed to generate the stochastic population of values for each component variable. SELDM calculates the dilution of runoff in the receiving waters and the resulting downstream event mean concentrations and annual average lake concentrations. Results are ranked, and plotting positions are calculated, to indicate the level of risk of adverse effects caused by runoff concentrations, flows, and loads on receiving waters by storm and by year. Unlike deterministic hydrologic models, SELDM is not calibrated by changing values of input variables to match a historical record of values. Instead, input values for SELDM are based on site characteristics and representative statistics for each hydrologic variable. Thus, SELDM is an empirical model based on data and statistics rather than theoretical physiochemical equations.

SELDM is a lumped parameter model because the highway site, the upstream basin, and the lake basin each are represented as a single homogeneous unit. Each of these source areas is represented by average basin properties, and results from SELDM are calculated as point estimates for the site of interest. Use of the lumped parameter approach facilitates rapid specification of model parameters to develop planning-level estimates with available data. The approach allows for parsimony in the required inputs to and outputs from the model and flexibility in the use of the model. For example, SELDM can be used to model runoff from various land covers or land uses by using the highway-site definition as long as representative water quality and impervious-fraction data are available.

First posted March 27, 2013

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
New Englalnd Water Science Center, MA-RI Office
10 Bearfoot Road
Northborough, MA 01532
(508) 490-5000

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Suggested citation:

Granato, G.E., 2013, Stochastic empirical loading and dilution model (SELDM) version 1.0.0: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods, book 4, chap. C3, 112 p., on CD-ROM,





Theory and Implementation


References Cited


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