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Effects of Land Use Change on Streamflow: An Evaluation of the Salt River Basin, Kentucky

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Rentsch, Alvin
Kentucky; Salt River Basin; Streamflow; Land use change
The Salt River Basin has experienced extensive land use change during the second half of the twentieth century as a result of expansion of urbanized areas. Due to expected climate change, the hydrological regime of the basin is expected to experience more extreme flood peaks and low flows. Land use changes may reinforce the effects of this shift through urbanization. In this study, we investigate the effect of projected land use change scenarios on river discharge using the variable infiltration capacity (VIC) (version 4.0.6) model, forced by a high-resolution atmospheric data set. VIC is a hydrology model that explicitly accounts for the role of land cover. All projected land use change scenarios lead to an increase in streamflow. The magnitude of the increase, however, varies among subbasins. The model suggests that land use change could have large effects on streamflow, faster runoff response to precipitation was observed toward the end of the period, which does appear to be attributable to land cover change. Projected land use changes (urbanization and conversion of cropland into forest) have inverse effects.
Includes figures, maps, tables and bibliography.
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