InTeGrate Modules and Courses >An Ecosystem Services Approach to Water Resources > Unit 2: Measuring and Modeling Ecosystem Services > Unit 2.3: Modeling Land-Use Change and Mitigation Strategies
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Unit 2.3: Modeling Land-Use Change and Mitigation Strategies

Developed by Ed Barbanell (University of Utah), Meghann Jarchow (University of South Dakota), and John Ritter (Wittenberg University)

Summary

In this activity, students model the impact of a proposed land-use change for a local site using the EPA's National Stormwater Calculator (Calculator). Given a description of the proposed land-use change, students devise and execute a series of simulations in the Calculator that model its potential impact on stormwater retention. Using additional simulations, students explore changes to the site that utilize low impact development (LID) controls to mitigate stormwater runoff.

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Learning Goals

Overall learning objective for this activity: Students will be able to create a model to simulate the impact of a local land-use change and to propose and evaluate alternatives using low impact development (LID) controls.

Specific learning objectives for this activity:

  1. Students will be able to appraise existing ecosystem services at a site of planned development.
  2. Students will be able to use the National Stormwater Calculator to create a model to simulate the impact of land-use change on stormwater runoff.
  3. Students will be able to use the model to identify and evaluate alternatives to the planned development to reduce the impact of development on stormwater runoff.

Context for Use

This activity is designed to be used in conjunction with Units 2.1 and 2.2 using the National Stormwater Calculator (Calculator). Units 2.1 and 2.2 introduced the Calculator using an example location provided with the activities. In this activity, students apply the Calculator to another situation, ideally addressing a hypothetical land-use scenario located on or near their campus. This activity would be appropriate in a range of introductory courses in water resources, sustainability, ecology, environmental science, Earth science and geology, land use planning, anthropology, and landscape design.

Class Size: This activity can be adapted for a variety of class sizes.
Class Format: This activity is designed for individual lecture sessions, but it is suitable for use in a lab setting or as a homework assignment as well. Students can work together, in groups of 2–4, but each student should complete his/her own assignment.
Time Required: This activity is designed to be completed in a 50-minute class period.
Special Equipment: Student groups should have a computer running Windows that has access to the Internet. The Calculator, which runs only on Windows, must be installed from the Internet. The link is provided in the References and Resources section below. Because the Calculator downloads soils data from a national database, Internet access is required during this activity. Not every student needs a computer for this activity, but at least one computer must be available per group. From the instructors' experiences, having at least one computer per three students is ideal.
Skills or concepts that students should have already mastered before encountering the activity: This activity assumes familiarity with basic concepts of ecosystem services and the hydrologic cycle.

Description and Teaching Materials

In this activity, students model a hypothetical land-use change either on their campus or in the local community/surrounding region. Three different examples are provided, and they should be used by the instructor for generating his or her own local example. The provided examples are similar in overall design, to illustrate the transferable nature of the activity to the instructor's locale. As such, any one of them can be used as a template for creating an example for a local land-use change.

Each example includes (a) a land use change-description and (b) a National Stormwater Calculator location file (.swc). (Note: To download a location file, click on the link, and select Save File, and then "OK." The file will be downloaded into your computer's Downloads folder. It can then be opened from within the Calculator as described in Part 1 of the Unit 2.1 Tutorial (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 5.6MB Dec1 16).)

  • Athletic and Recreational Facility, Springfield, OH:

Athletic and Recreational Facility Example (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 558kB Sep4 16)

Athletic and Recreational Facility Location -- Stormwater Calculator File (ShockWave Component (SWC) 1kB Jun28 16)

  • Missouri River, Vermillion, SD

Missouri River Example (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 599kB Dec1 16)

Missouri River Location -- Stormwater Calculator File (ShockWave Component (SWC) 1kB Jul24 15)

  • Williams Building Redevelopment / Red Butte Creek, Salt Lake City, UT

Williams Building Example (Acrobat (PDF) 591kB Nov30 16)

Williams Building Location -- Stormwater Calculator File (ShockWave Component (SWC) 1kB Jul30 15)

Each of the three examples has the same assessment schema in its description. A generalized assessment tool is included as Unit 2.3 Assessment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 20kB Sep4 16).

Teaching Notes and Tips

Alternatives to LID Controls (10 min)

Prior to ending your last class session, you posed this question to your students: In planning the development of the expansion area, can you do so in such a way as to optimize natural ecosystem services to reduce the need for and cost of LID controls?

Ask the question again, prefacing it by saying that LID controls are not the only way to mitigate stormwater increases, and that before you proceed, you want to explore other ways. Solicit student responses to the question.

From a stormwater management link from the Center for Watershed Protection, there is a nice summary of LID controls as well as green infrastructure and environmental site design. You can follow the response period with a review of the website or by simply building a discussion off of the responses. The key here is being smart about the site. For example:

  • Do not build in the low spots.
  • Rearrange housing to follow contour or elevation.
  • Move away from square lots to consume all of the space by creating common space with natural cover.
  • If different soils are on the site, do not build on the most permeable or well-drained soils. Build on the high runoff potential soils, and let the other soils do what they do best—allow the infiltration of rainfall.
  • Keep the steeper slopes in natural cover.
  • Take advantage of natural features (e.g., swales and wetlands) and ecosystem services.

The National Stormwater Calculator can be manipulated in some ways to mimic these, but it suggests the limits of the model to students while providing alternative ways to think about the problem.

Assign the Land Use Change Example (remainder of class)

Ideally, students would investigate the impact of a local land-use change on stormwater runoff. Three examples, to be used as templates by the instructor for a developing a scenario for their locale, are provided. Alternatively, any of these examples could substitute for the local land-use change. The activity should be assigned to students in small groups of 2–4 students. They should use the remainder of the time developing a group plan for completing the work, finishing as much as possible during class. It may or may not be possible to hold a brief discussion of the groups' results. This can also happen within the context of the next and final unit of this module, Unit 3: Using an Ecosystem Services Approach for Civic Engagement. Alternatively, the students' work can be evaluated on the basis of a set of slides that might be presented to the university. A description of that assessment is included as Unit 2.3 Assessment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 20kB Sep4 16).

The assessment includes a summary slideshow to be turned in, geared toward the activity's objectives and designed for a university audience. Be clear that the final product is a 5-min slide presentation (suggest that it be 5 slides or fewer), submitted to you for review. Groups should include annotation on each slide or in the notes. This could be modified for a much broader audience in the next unit.

Assessment

The Unit 2.3 Assessment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 20kB Sep4 16) is generalized so that it is applicable to any exercise developed locally that follows the format of the example exercises presented above. A key is included: .

References and Resources

National Stormwater Calculator User's Guide Version 1.1

Description and download page for National Stormwater Calculator

Center for Watershed Protection

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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »