Modeling Urban Hydrology: A Comparison of New Urbanist and Traditional Neighborhood Design Surface Runoff


Urban development generally leads to an increase in impervious cover resulting in a greater volume of surface runoff following storm activity. However, the type of urban development in place strongly controls the degree of impervious cover generated. Traditional neighborhood designs focus on a medium-to-low urban density spread over larger areas, while new urbanist neighborhood designs incorporate more diversity by increasing urban density across smaller areas. The purpose of this study is to model and compare the potential surface runoff for two urban neighborhoods in Austin, Texas-Circle C Ranch, a traditional neighborhood design, and Mueller, a new urbanist development for a 10-year 24-hour storm scenario. Potential surface runoff was calculated by layering various geospatial datasets representing the physical characteristics of both study sites within the Watershed Modeling System (WMS) to configure the HEC-HMS runoff model. Results initially imply that the higher density new urbanist neighborhood significantly increases total and peak storm runoff compared to the traditional neighborhood. However, a greater number of residential units are available at Mueller over the same area as Circle C Ranch. When taking this into account the increased potential surface runoff is negated at the new urbanist site. Although new urbanist neighborhoods will usually contain more residential units than traditional developments when compared at the same scale, the higher urban density associated with these neighborhoods demand the development of more effective stormwater retention systems to cope with a potential increase in surface runoff.

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C. Day and K. Bremer, "Modeling Urban Hydrology: A Comparison of New Urbanist and Traditional Neighborhood Design Surface Runoff," International Journal of Geosciences, Vol. 4 No. 5, 2013, pp. 891-897. doi: 10.4236/ijg.2013.45083.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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