Hydropedological assessments of parcel-level infiltration in an arid urban ecosystem

William D. Shuster, Stephen D. Dadio, Caitlin E. Burkman, Stevan R. Earl, Sharon Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Soil morphology and correspondent hydrologic data can contribute to qualifying and quantifying urban soil suitability and capacity to cycle stormwater runoff. We put particular emphasis on the possibility that residential parcels may manage their own stormwater on pervious yard areas. We assessed the morphology of Aridisol pedons (as deep cores to approximately the 3.6- m depth) via soil taxonomy, performed in situ measurements of infiltration, and measured subsoil hydraulic conductivity in two desert parks, four residential parcels, and three dual-purpose park-stormwater retention basins in the Phoenix, AZ, metropolitan area. Infiltration rates overall ranged between 0.4 and 1.7 cm h-1. We used borehole hydraulic conductivity as a proxy for drainage, which ranged from a low of 0.0 to 13 cm h-1. Representing a baseline, or set of "natural" hydrologic processes, native desert sites exhibited a relatively high capacity to infiltrate and redistribute rainfall, which, depending on storm intensity, may drain to washes or ephemeral streambeds via subsurface runoff. Simulations of stormwater runoff on residential parcels showed that when rooftop runoff is directed to pervious patches, rainfall is entirely infiltrated and redistributed, which predicts good potential for parcel- level stormwater management. Our observation of an accumulation of fine sediments in retention basin surface soils was corroborated with local observations that drawdown times in the retention basins had increased with time. Although further assessment is needed on a wider variety of semiarid landscapes, our results suggest a positive role for residential parcels in detaining stormwater on site and perhaps easing the wet-weather burden on centralized stormwater infrastructure in semiarid urban ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-406
Number of pages9
JournalSoil Science Society of America Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


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