Watershed Impairment in Buncombe County, North Carolina: Impervious Groundcover Relations to Stream Degradation

Samantha Lynae Rames


Impervious surfaces negatively impact physical and chemical aspects of waterways. Buncombe County, NC has experienced urban growth in recent years and is expected to expand in the foreseeable future. The upper French Broad River (UFBR) watershed (which contains this county) and 14 of its subwatersheds were assessed for threats of water quality impairment based on the extent and rate of expansion of impervious cover in 2006, and the water quality of these systems was projected for 2030. With the use of ArcGIS mapping software, percent impervious groundcover was calculated. It was determined that, by the year 2030, Mud Creek would become degraded and that Hominy Creek, Swannanoa River and UFBR as a whole would become impaired due to the impervious surface cover, which will increase runoff, erosion and nonpoint pollution, harming the aquatic organisms. Further research using data over multiple years, perhaps also examining landuse history, is required to determine if the findings have significance. Management practices to increase forest cover and environmentally friendly urban development planning may help improve impaired streams and prevent environmental degradation in the future. Impervious cover is just one of many aspects of water quality that must be analyzed to determine the health of the whole watershed and could be useful for formulating restoration and preservation strategies.


Watershed; Impervious Cover; North Carolina

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