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This paper presents an approach to assessing the sustainability of watersheds that can be applied by regional authorities to multiple watersheds. It is a GIS/Access database approach that is invaluable in comparing present patterns of water withdrawal and discharge within a watershed to the natural flow cycle in order to assess the degree to which the watershed is stressed.

The approach uses a computerized water balance for each watershed, using data in an Access database linked to GIS maps to develop each element of the water balance. The equation used is:

ET = P + WW/IND Rech + EDR + SW Disch − RO - SWW − GWW − EDW - BF


ET is the evaporation and transpiration of water

P is the average precipitation at the gage nearest to the subbasin

WW/IND Rech is the wastewater and industrial discharge back to groundwater

EDR is the estimated domestic recharge from private septic systems

SW Disch is the discharge of water to creeks

RO is the surface water runoff component of precipitation

SWW is the withdrawal of water from creeks

GWW is groundwater withdrawals from public water supply or industrial wells

EDW is the estimated domestic withdrawal of groundwater from private wells

BF is the median baseflow of streams

The paper discusses several technical difficulties that were overcome to develop the balances successfully, and shows some of the uses of the water balance results within the water resource plan. The paper also highlights the results of a comparison between net water consumption and two sustainability standards: the Q7-10 and 1 in 25 year low baseflow.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2000

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  • Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation is an archive of papers published in the proceedings of the annual Water Environment Federation® Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC® ) and specialty conferences held since the year 2000. These proceedings are not peer reviewed.

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