Modeling the effects of land use change on the water temperature in unregulated urban streams Academic Article uri icon


  • Streams, in their natural state, are typically diverse and biologically productive environments. Streams subject to urbanization often experience degradation brought about by the cumulative effects of flow alteration, unsanitary discharge and channelization. One of the water quality parameters affected by urbanization is stream temperature. This study offers a model for predicting the impact of land use change on the temperature of non-regulated streams during extreme events. A stream temperature model was created by considering the gains and losses of thermal energy resulting from radiation, convection, conduction, evaporation and advection. A sensitivity analysis showed that out of 14 variables, shade/transmissivity of riparian vegetation, groundwater discharge, and stream width had the greatest influence on stream temperature. These same three variables are highly influenced by land use. Individual component models were developed to predict how urbanization changes stream width and baseflow discharge. Using 3-D computer modeling, a model was also developed to illustrate the effects of altering the extent and composition of riparian vegetation on streams with different orientations. By modeling these three variables as a function of urbanization, the results became inputs into the stream temperature model. The critical urban stream temperature model (CrUSTe), an aggregation of these four models, allows the prediction of stream temperature change as a result of amount, type and location of urbanization within a watershed. It has the potential to become a valuable tool for environmental managers.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • LeBlanc, R. T., Brown, R. D., & FitzGibbon, J. E.

citation count

  • 165

complete list of authors

  • LeBlanc, RT||Brown, RD||FitzGibbon, JE

publication date

  • April 1997