Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Variation in streamwater quality in an Urban Headwater Stream in the Southern Appalachians

Informally Refereed
Authors: Barton D. Clinton, James M. Vose
Year: 2006
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Southern Research Station
Source: Water, Air, and Soil Pollution (2006) 169: 331–353


We examined the influence of a forested landscape on the quality of water in a stream originating on an urban landscape and flowing through National Forest lands. Sample sites included an urban stream (URB), a site on the same stream but within a National Forest (FOR) and 2 km downstream from the URB site, and a small, undisturbed, forested reference tributary of the main stream (REF). We monitored stream water quality from March 2002 through June 2003. Average base flows for the three stream sites were URB = 184 L s−1, FOR = 420 L s−1, and REF = 17 L s−1. We analyzed weekly stream water samples for NO3- , NH4+ , PO4+ , Cl, K, Ca, Mg, SO4, SiO2, pH, conductivity, total suspended solids (TSS), and bacteria on a monthly basis. Most solutes were higher in concentration at the URB site, as were conductivity, TSS, and bacteria counts. Reductions in NO3-, NH4+ , and PO4+ concentrations between the URB and FOR sites were inferred from changes in nutrient:chloride ratios. Bacteria populations were greater and more responsive to stream temperature at the URB site. Water quality responses to changes in stream discharge varied among sites but were greater at the URB site. By all measures, water quality was consistently higher at the FOR site than at the URB site.


water quality, surface water, urbanization, forest, sediment, bacteria


Clinton, Barton D.; Vose, James M. 2006. Variation in streamwater quality in an Urban Headwater Stream in the Southern Appalachians. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution (2006) 169: 331 353