Exploring storage and runoff generation processes for urban flooding through a physically based watershed model

B. K. Smith, James A. Smith, M. L. Baeck, A. J. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


A physically based model of the 14 km2 Dead Run watershed in Baltimore County, MD was created to test the impacts of detention basin storage and soil storage on the hydrologic response of a small urban watershed during flood events. The Dead Run model was created using the Gridded Surface Subsurface Hydrologic Analysis (GSSHA) algorithms and validated using U.S. Geological Survey stream gaging observations for the Dead Run watershed and 5 subbasins over the largest 21 warm season flood events during 2008-2012. Removal of the model detention basins resulted in a median peak discharge increase of 11% and a detention efficiency of 0.5, which was defined as the percent decrease in peak discharge divided by percent detention controlled area. Detention efficiencies generally decreased with increasing basin size. We tested the efficiency of detention basin networks by focusing on the "drainage network order," akin to the stream order but including storm drains, streams, and culverts. The detention efficiency increased dramatically between first-order detention and second-order detention but was similar for second and third-order detention scenarios. Removal of the soil compacted layer, a common feature in urban soils, resulted in a 7% decrease in flood peak discharges. This decrease was statistically similar to the flood peak decrease caused by existing detention. Current soil storage within the Dead Run watershed decreased flood peak discharges by a median of 60%. Numerical experiment results suggested that detention basin storage and increased soil storage have the potential to substantially decrease flood peak discharges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1552-1569
Number of pages18
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • detention basins
  • distributed watershed model
  • flash flood
  • urban flood
  • urban soils


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