When It Rains, It Pours: Assessing Stormwater Runoff in Atlanta

Category: Land Cover Change & Disturbances
Project Team: Atlanta Water Resources II
Team Location: University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia

Landsat 8- and ASTER-based greenspace suitability analysis within metro Atlanta, Georgia. Image Credit: Atlanta Water Resources II Team

Landsat 8- and ASTER-based greenspace suitability analysis within metro Atlanta, Georgia. Image Credit: Atlanta Water Resources II Team

Christopher Cameron
Ike Astuti
Mark Beatty
Natalia Bhattacharjee (née Shim)
Manasi Parkhi
Alex Smith

Dr. Rosanna Rivero (University of Georgia, College of Environment & Design)
Dr. Marguerite Madden (University of Georgia, Center for Geospatial Research)

Past/Other Contributors:
Caren Remillard (Center Lead)
Beatriz Avila
Veronica Fay
Jason Reynolds
Jacob Spaulding
Wenjing Xu


Residents of metro Atlanta pay the highest rates in the nation for municipal water and sewer, in part due to massive recent investments in infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff. As development continues at a rapid pace in Atlanta and its suburbs, expanding areas of impervious surfaces will continue to exacerbate this problem. Forested land is known to slow runoff during storms, allowing water to infiltrate, and the soil to absorb particles and contaminants before entering the surface water. Enabling the protection of existing green infrastructure, or strategically planting more trees to intercept stormwater runoff, will help reduce sediment and nutrient-laden stormwater runoff in local watersheds in addition to limiting the needs of future city infrastructure. The DEVELOP team at the University of Georgia partnered with The Nature Conservancy to identify conservation targets in the Atlanta region to improve existing green infrastructure and locate additional areas suitable for expansion of reforestation efforts using data from Landsat 8 and Terra satellites. This was accomplished through a combined, watershed-scale assessment of metro Atlanta using the Land-Use Conflict Identification Strategy (LUCIS) and Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) models. The LUCIS model was employed in this project to identify areas of land use prioritization as it relates to existing and future conservation areas in Atlanta. The SWAT model produced an analysis of streamflow and runoff within the study area. Together, these model results provided project partners with an integrated understanding of water resource issues in metro Atlanta that emphasized land use scenarios.

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Amber Jones 22-08-2016, 13:40

Nice work!
I’d like to see more natural infrastructure solutions like the one suggested here.
If your team had more time, what else would you like to do with this project?

Chris Cameron 23-08-2016, 09:44

Hi Amber,

I would say that if we had more time in the term, I think we would like to calibrate our SWAT model further and dive deeper into the results. In the MNGWPD, we have 5 major watersheds that all have unique land use allocations and physical attributes which means we have a lot of data to go through!

Darius Hixon (MCHD) 18-08-2016, 21:08

I really enjoyed the video! Did you all consider using the NOAA Impervious Surface Analysis Tool to estimate impervious surface impacts?

Chris Cameron 23-08-2016, 09:38

Hi Darius,

My team did not use that tool, but it sounds like something we should look into!

Daryl Ann Winstead (Mekong River Basin Agriculture) 18-08-2016, 17:07

Great video! Very creative VPS image!

Alec Courtright 17-08-2016, 10:20

Great work on this project! From the first term to now this project has provided your end-users with some incredible tools. Will there be a third term for this project and, if so, what will be added in that continuation. Also, how has the nature conservancy utilized your results from the first and second term so far?

Chris Cameron 23-08-2016, 09:36

Hi Alec,

Yes, this project has another term planned for this fall. In the final term, we hope to integrate the SWAT and LUCIS outputs into our greenspace suitability analysis and prioritization mapping.

The Nature Conservancy has been great at using the products we have already provided them. They used our suitability results from the first term to inform a socio-economic baseline study in the MNGWPD and to help to guide a local biodiversity assessment (beginning this fall). Additionally, we did field checks with TNC this summer on some location identified by our model. TNC has also used our results from this project to assist in discussions with local policy makers like the Atlanta Regional Commission.


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