Dispersion mechanisms and the effect of parameter uncertainty on hydrologic response in urban catchments

Joshua Cantone, Arthur Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The link between river network structure and hydrologic response for natural watersheds has been the subject of ongoing research for the past 30 years. In this paper we investigate the link between sewer network structure and hydrologic response in urban catchments. It has been shown in natural watersheds that there are dispersion mechanisms that contribute to the impulse response function of the catchment: hydrodynamic dispersion, geomorphologic dispersion, and hydrodynamic dispersion. We introduce a fourth dispersion mechanism, intrastate dispersion, which accounts for the variance in conduit (e.g., slope, length, diameter, etc.) and overland region input parameters (e.g., slope, area, imperviousness, etc.) within an order. This dispersion mechanism is found to be the second largest contributor to the total dispersion in the urban catchments analyzed, contributing less than hydrodynamic dispersion but more than kinematic and geomorphologic dispersion. This is primarily a result of the shorter network travel times observed in urban catchment. The dispersion mechanisms are incorporated in the Illinois Urban Hydrologic Model, which is a recently developed probabilistic approach for predicting the hydrologic response in highly urbanized catchments. Furthermore, an analysis is performed to help better understand the uncertainty in the predicted hydrologic response that is introduced by spatial variation in conduit and overland input parameters. It is identified that conduit slope and length are the greatest sources of uncertainty in the predicted direct runoff hydrograph for the CDS-51 catchment in the village of Dolton, Illinois, and the CDS-36 catchment in the city of Chicago, Illinois.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberW05503
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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