Stormflow and Land Use Change: Low Density Development in the Ferson-Otter Creek Watershed, 1960-1996

Due to a combination of factors, including development of open space land, increasing precipitation trends the United States and demands on Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, flooding is considered potentially to be the "dust bowl of the 21st century." Current and potential public and private financial burden suggests the need for government intervention to address the issue, most likely through land use planning.

To explore the impact of development on flooding, this study focuses on the Ferson-Otter Creek watershed in Kane County, Illinois, a Chicago collar county. To do this, a variable measuring warm season (April-October) stormflow is created. This variable considers the change of stormflow over a 48-hour period before and after rainfall events equal to or greater than 1.5 inches. This variable is then plotted against a variable measuring low density subdivision development in the watershed from the years 1960 to 1996. Using locally weighted regression (lowess) we find that recent development has led to a substantial increase in stormflow.

While the findings are preliminary and suggestive in nature, policy makers should consider the influence of land use decisions on the increased potential for flooding and the havoc and cost it brings.

Downloadable Documents: 
Patrick A. Stewart, Michael T. Ritsche, Douglas J. Krieger
DeKalb, IL: American Farmland Trust
Page Numbers: 
Publication Date: 
March 13, 1999
Literature Category: 
Reports and Studies