More than 60 percent of U.S. land has been altered by urban development and agricultural use, recent studies estimate, and urban expansion claims an additional 420,000 acres of land each year. All land use affects the environment in some way, and unmanaged development can cause unforeseen environmental damage.
In an attempt to develop a comprehensive environmental management model for watersheds, Civil Engineering (CE) Associate Professor Panos Diplas is leading a team of 13 Virginia Tech researchers in a unique interdisciplinary assessment of the hydrologic, ecological and economic effects of urban development.
"The deterioration of the Chesapeake Bay is a classic example of unmanaged urban and agricultural evelopment," Diplas adds. "The goal of our project is to help local governments learn how to allow for urban development while sustaining good environmental quality." The project study site is the Upper Roanoke River Watershed.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in cooperation with the National Science Foundation, is sponsoring the three-year project with $850,000 in funding. The Virginia Tech team, consisting of faculty members from CE, agriculture and applied economics (AAEc), biological systems engineering (BSE), biology, fisheries and wildlife sciences, and the Virginia Water Resources Research Center (VWRRC), was one of four selected out of about 130 nationwide that submitted proposals.
The Upper Roanoke River Watershed has a drainage area of 512 square miles and includes both rural headwater areas and concentrated urban areas along the river's main stem. Located near the city of Roanoke, the watershed is experiencing significant residential and commercial development.
"A watershed is a self-contained environmental unit," says Diplas, who
for several years has conducted research on environmental hydraulics, river
flooding mitigation, wetlands and other related issues. "That make
Contact: Panos Diplas