Untangling the effects of urban development on subsurface storage in Baltimore

Aditi S. Bhaskar, Claire Welty, Reed M. Maxwell, Andrew J. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The impact of urban development on surface flow has been studied extensively over the last half century, but effects on groundwater systems are still poorly understood. Previous studies of the influence of urban development on subsurface storage have not revealed any consistent pattern, with results showing increases, decreases, and negligible change in groundwater levels. In this paper, we investigated the effects of four key features that impact subsurface storage in urban landscapes. These include reduced vegetative cover, impervious surface cover, infiltration and inflow (I&I) of groundwater and storm water into wastewater pipes, and other anthropogenic recharge and discharge fluxes including water supply pipe leakage and well and reservoir withdrawals. We applied the integrated groundwater-surface water-land surface model ParFlow.CLM to the Baltimore metropolitan area. We compared the base case (all four features) to simulations in which an individual urban feature was removed. For the Baltimore region, the effect of infiltration of groundwater into wastewater pipes had the greatest effect on subsurface storage (I&I decreased subsurface storage 11.1% relative to precipitation minus evapotranspiration after 1 year), followed by the impact of water supply pipe leakage and lawn irrigation (combined anthropogenic discharges and recharges led to a 7.4% decrease) and reduced vegetation (1.9% increase). Impervious surface cover led to a small increase in subsurface storage (0.56% increase) associated with decreased groundwater discharge as base flow. The change in subsurface storage due to infiltration of groundwater into wastewater pipes was largest despite the smaller spatial extent of surface flux modifications, compared to other features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1158-1181
Number of pages24
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • cloud simulations
  • convection
  • emulation
  • microphysics
  • precipitation
  • uncertainty


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