Drainage Impacts on Surficial Water Retention Capacity of a Prairie Pothole Watershed

Andrew C. Kessler, Satish C. Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Wetland restoration has been proposed as a tool to mitigate excess runoff and associated nonpoint source pollution in the Upper Midwestern United States. This study quantified the surficial water retention capacity of existing and drained wetlands for the Greater Blue Earth River Basin (GBERB), an intensively drained agricultural watershed. Using airborne light detection and ranging, the historic depressional storage was determined to be 152 mm. Individual depression analysis suggested that the restoration of most drained areas would have little impact on the storage capacity of the GBERB because the majority (53%) of retention capacity was in large depressions (>40 ha) which comprised only a small proportion (<1.0) of the observed depressions. Accounting for change in storage and the difference in annual evapotranspiration (ET) between wetlands and the croplands that replaced them, restoration of all depressions in the Minnesota portion of GBERB would provide a maximum of 131 mm additional capacity over and above the modern day capacity (193 mm; 56 mm depressional storage 60 mm wetland ET; and 77 mm cropland ET). Considering that depressional depths in smaller areas are within the range of uncertainty of the lidar digital elevation models and larger depressions have the most storage, we conclude that efforts to increase the surficial water-holding capacity of the GBERB would be best served in the restoration of large (>40 ha) depressions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1101-1113
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • GIS
  • Lidar
  • Nonpoint source pollution
  • Remote sensing
  • Surface water hydrology
  • Wetlands


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