Assessing long-term hydrological impacts of land use/land cover (LULC) change is of critical importance for land use planning and water resource management. The Little River Watershed, Tennessee, is an important watershed supporting drinking water and recreational activities within and around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the Unites States. However, the potential hydrological impacts of LULC change, especially urbanization in recent decades, are not quantified. This paper assessed the long-term impacts of LULC change on streamflow and non-point source pollution using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) and a detailed LULC record from 1984 to 2010. The SWAT was first calibrated and validated using observed streamflowin 2010 and then simulated using different LULC patterns in 1984-2010 to quantify the long-term hydrological impacts caused by the LULC change. Simulated results indicated a minor 3% increase in streamflow for the whole watershed from 1984 to 2010, but with a distinct spatial pattern. The increase in streamflow is closely related to urban development. Almost no streamflow increase occurred in the upper watershed within the national park, whereas > 10% increase occurred in the lower watershed, especially in areas close to cities. Model simulation also suggested 34.6% reduction in sediment and about 10% reduction in nutrient loads from 1984 to 2010, closely related to the decrease in agricultural land. However, without calibration and validation, the simulated reduction in the sediment and nutrient loads may be problematic because SWAT mainly simulates the static LULC patterns, whereas LULC transitions, such as construction phases, may generate more sediment and nutrient loads. In addition, the simulation also did not account for the sediment and nutrients generated from stream bank erosion.
Zhu, C., & Li, Y. (2014). Long-Term Hydrological Impacts of Land Use/Land Cover Change From 1984 to 2010 in the Little River Watershed, Tennessee. International Soil and Water Conservation Research, 2(2), 11–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2095-6339(15)30002-2