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Title: Climatic controls on the hydrologic effects of urban low impact development practices

To increase the adoption and reliability of low impact development (LID) practices for stormwater runoff management and other co-benefits, we must improve our understanding of how climate (i.e. patterns in incoming water and energy) affects LID hydrologic behavior and effectiveness. While others have explored the effects of precipitation patterns on LID performance, the role of energy availability and well-known ecological frameworks based on the aridity index (ratio of potential evapotranspiration (ET) to precipitation, PET:P) such as Budyko theory are almost entirely absent from the LID scientific literature. Furthermore, it has not been tested whether these natural system frameworks can predict the fate of water retained in the urban environment when human interventions decrease runoff. To systematically explore how climate affects LID hydrologic behavior, we forced a process-based hydrologic model of a baseline single-family parcel and a parcel with infiltration-based LID practices with meteorological records from 51 U.S. cities. Contrary to engineering design practice which assumes precipitation intensity is the primary driver of LID effectiveness (e.g. through use of design storms), statistical analysis of our model results shows that the effects of LID practices on long-term surface runoff, deep drainage, and ET are controlled by the relative balance and timing more » of water and energy availability (PET:P, 30 d correlation of PET and P) and measures of precipitation intermittency. These results offer a new way of predicting LID performance across climates and evaluating the effectiveness of infiltration-based, rather than retention-based, strategies to achieve regional hydrologic goals under current and future climate conditions.

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Journal Name:
Environmental Research Letters
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Article No. 064021
IOP Publishing
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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