Date of Award



Beverley Wemple, PhD

Leslie Morrissey, PhD

Donna Rizzo, PhD

Donald Ross, PhD

Document Type



Over half of the local town roads in Vermont are unpaved (VBB, 2009). In the Mad River Watershed of central Vermont, 58% of the roads are unpaved. These compacted surfaces, despite their lack of tar, provide hundreds of miles of impermeable surfaces that extend the stream network, and transport runoff and pollutants to our water bodies. In this project, 12 sites within the Mad River watershed were monitored with the goal of evaluating the amount of runoff that is generated on the road surface itself as compared to flow that enters roadside ditches via groundwater seeps and overland flow from adjacent land. Each site was monitored for stage using an ISCO 6712 Automated Water Sampling Unit with an attached pressure transducer, and rating curves were developed from manual volume measurements in order to connect stage values with runoff volumes. Each site was mapped to determine the contributing road surface drainage area, and these values were compared to the slope of linear regressions developed for storm precipitation and runoff totals. Modeled road surface hydrographs were developed for 11 of the 12 sites, using the rational method, and were compared to hydrographs developed using measured runoff. One-quarter of the sites appear to have regular runoff contributions that originate outside of the bounds of the mapped drainage area. Five of the eleven sites also displayed seasonal variations where runoff originated outside of the mapped road surface area during times of greater land saturation. These results indicate that roads can sometimes contribute far more than just the runoff that is generated on their surface alone, and that the quantity and occurrence of these external contributions may increase with an increase in the drainage source area that can be seen in seasons when the ground is saturated.

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Hydrology Commons