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DEMONSTRATION OF STORMWATER ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS IN THE COYOTE CREEK WATERSHED AND THE WALSH AVENUE CATCHMENT, SILICON VALLEY, CALIFORNIA

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Under a grant from the Water Environment Research Foundation, the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program (SCVURPPP) implemented 20 of the Center for Watershed Protection's 26 Environmental Indicators to Assess Stormwater Programs and Practices. The indicators were applied at two geographic scales: the 310-square-mile watershed of Coyote Creek and a 28-acre industrial catchment in the City of Santa Clara.

In Coyote Creek, our baseline was a 1979-1981 EPA-sponsored study that sought to identify the effects of urban runoff on water quality, sediment, fish, macroinvertebrates, attached algae, and rooted aquatic vegetation. In addition, the SCVURPPP monitored stormwater constituents and toxicity in the creek 1987-1996. In 1999, we sampled fish and assessed physical habitat at 18 locations in Coyote Creek, sampled surficial sediment at six locations, and sampled benthic macroinvertebrates at nine locations. We analyzed flooding, changes to stream morphology, and sources of imperviousness in the surrounding watershed. We also georeferenced reports of illegal dumping and known industrial and construction sites.

Eighteen of the Walsh Avenue catchment's 32 businesses participated in a 1992 pilot industrial stormwater pollution control study. Drainage from the catchment was sampled and analyzed for pollutants 1989-1996 and again in 1999. We reviewed the City of Santa Clara's inspection records and conducted on-site interviews with managers of 29 of the 32 businesses.

Fish assemblages in Coyote Creek are much the same as they have been since the construction of a major dam in 1950. However, analysis of fish and macroinvertebrate indicated changes in reaches that have urbanized since the 1979-81 study. Businesses in the Walsh Avenue catchment are implementing more best management practices (BMPs) than in 1992, but we attributed this to the existence of other regulatory programs and generally heightened awareness, rather than the local urban runoff pollution prevention program's efforts.

Based on our results, we identified two groups of indicators: The first group, which included the programmatic indicators targeted at measuring specific program activities, was useful for documenting and understanding pollution-prevention efforts and yielded insight into ways to improve them. The second group of indicators included the application of physical, water-quality, and biological measurements at a watershed scale. These indicators were useful for an overall assessment of stream function and an understanding of the multitude of natural and anthropogenic factors influencing those functions. The usefulness of these indicators depends on their integration into a narrative that educates and motivates watershed stakeholders to protect and enhance stream beneficial uses.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2000-01-01

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