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Environ Manage. 2005 Mar;35(3):330-42.

Non-point-source impacts on stream nutrient concentrations along a forest to urban gradient.

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Department of Civil & Environmental EngineeringBox 352700, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


We conducted statistical analyses of a 10-year record of stream nutrient and sediment concentrations for 17 streams in the greater Seattle region to determine the impact of urban non-point-source pollutants on stream water quality. These catchments are dominated by either urban (22-87%) or forest (6-73%) land cover, with no major nutrient point sources. Stream water phosphorus concentrations were moderately strongly (r2=0.58) correlated with catchment land-cover type, whereas nitrogen concentrations were weakly (r2=0.19) and nonsignificantly (at alpha<0.05) correlated with land cover. The most urban streams had, on average, 95% higher total phosphorus (TP) and 122% higher soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) and 71% higher turbidity than the most forested streams. Nitrate (NO3), ammonium (NH4), and total suspended solids (TSS) concentrations did not vary significantly with land cover. These results suggest that urbanization markedly increased stream phosphorus concentrations and modestly increased nitrogen concentrations. However, nutrient concentrations in Seattle region urban streams are significantly less than those previously reported for agricultural area streams.

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