The impact of future land use scenarios on runoff volumes in the Muskegon River Watershed

Deepak Ray, Jonah M. Duckles, Bryan C. Pijanowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


In this article we compared the response of surface water runoff to a storm event for different rates of urbanization, reforestation and riparian buffer setbacks across forty subwatersheds of the Muskegon River Watershed located in Michigan, USA. We also made these comparisons for several forecasted and one historical land use scenarios (over 140 years). Future land use scenarios to 2040 for forest regrowth, urbanization rates and stream setbacks were developed using the Land Transformation Model (LTM). Historical land use information, from 1900 at 5-year time step intervals, was created using a Backcast land use change model configured using artificial neural network and driven by agriculture and housing census information. We show that (1) controlling the rate of development is the most effective policy option to reduce runoff; (2) establishing setbacks along the mainstem are not as effective as controlling urban growth; (3) reforestation can abate some of the runoff effects from urban growth but not all; (4) land use patterns of the 1970s produced the least amount of runoff in most cases in the Muskegon River Watershed when compared to land use maps from 1900 to 2040; and, (5) future land use patterns here not always lead to increased (worse) runoff than the past. We found that while ten of the subwatersheds contained futures that were worse than any past land use configuration, twenty-five (62.5%) of the subwatersheds produced the greatest amount of runoff in 1900, shortly after the entire watershed was clear-cut. One third (14/40) of the subwatersheds contained the minimum amount of runoff in the 1960s and 1970s, a period when forest amounts were greatest and urban amounts relatively small.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-366
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2010


  • Land use change modeling
  • Policy Impacts
  • Surface water runoff

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