U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


Date of this Version



Wickham, J., A. Neale, M. Mehaffey, T. Jarnagin, and D. Norton, 2016. Temporal Trends in the Spatial Distribution of Impervious Cover Relative to Stream Location. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 52(2): 409-419. DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12393


U.S. government work.


Use of impervious cover is transitioning from an indicator of surface water condition to one that also guides and informs watershed planning and management, including Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. §1251 et seq.) reporting. Whether it is for understanding surface water condition or planning and management, impervious cover is most commonly expressed as summary measurement (e.g., percentage watershed in impervious cover). We use the National Land Cover Database to estimate impervious cover in the vicinity of surface waters for three time periods (2001, 2006, 2011). We also compare impervious cover in the vicinity of surface waters to watershed summary estimates of impervious cover for classifying the spatial pattern of impervious cover. Between 2001 and 2011, surface water shorelines (streams and water bodies) in the vicinity of impervious cover increased nearly 10,000 km. Across all time periods, approximately 27% of the watersheds in the continental United States had proximally distributed impervious cover, i.e., the percentage of impervious cover in the vicinity of surface waters was higher than its watershed summary expression. We discuss how impervious cover spatial pattern can be used to inform watershed planning and management, including reporting under the Clean Water Act.