WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Less urban sprawl and more forests are keys to decreasing water runoff and disastrous flooding, U.S. scientists said.
Researchers at Purdue University used computer modeling to study the runoff rates of Michigan's Muskegon River watershed from 1900 to the present and predict them 30 years into the future, a university release said Thursday.
Several variables -- including forest re-growth, urbanization and buffers between development and streams -- were analyzed to estimate their impact on rivers and streams.
"Changes in the land's surface feed back to runoff. Urban sprawl and impervious surfaces are the biggest culprits," Bryan Pijanowski, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources, said. "If you're able to control development, it is the most effective way to save our river ecosystem."
Urban areas in the United States would double in 20 years at the current rate, Pijanowski said, and in the model predictions, doubling the urban area in the Muskegon River watershed increased runoff by 1 1/2 times.
The findings, published in the online version of the journal Environmental Management, suggest slowing the rate of urban sprawl would be the most effective way to reduce or control runoff.
Adding forest near rivers and streams and requiring buffer zones between those waterways and development also could help, the study said.