Characterizing water-related land use differences across urban river reaches

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Dusty Pilkington, Weber State University

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Boundaries dividing political authority rarely match natural water flow. Multiple agencies, often with competing policies and agendas, manage water within single watersheds. This discrepancy can render management efforts ineffective. Local water agencies include soil conservation districts, local health departments, and engineering agencies. Agencies have varying funding sources, managerial structures, and jurisdictional boundaries. Fragmentation can frustrate management efforts at watershed scales. Comparisons between natural watersheds and human political geography can therefore be helpful in avoiding conflicts. This research examines discrepancies between political and physical geographies for sections of three Utah rivers : the Logan and Provo Rivers, and Red Butte Creek. These rivers are being targeted for intensive research as part of a statewide, multidisciplinary water sustainability project, titled iUTAH. Water-related land use (WRLU) data acquired from Utah’s Automated Geographic Resource Center were analyzed using ArcGIS geoproceessing tools. WRLU contributing to water quality in urban river reaches is described. WRLU was examined using three boundary sets, comparing the political geography of the river reaches, as depicted in municipal boundaries and management areas of community water providers, to their physical geography, as depicted in United States Geologic Survey Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) watersheds. WRLU mixes using political infrastructure were contrasted with land use mixes from HUC boundaries. WRLU was classified in seven categories: residential, commercial/industrial, riparian/water features, irrigated agriculture, non-irrigated agriculture, farmsteads, and parks/open spaces. A gradient from rural Heber, to urbanizing Logan, to fully urbanized Red Butte Creek is shown. While Red Butte Creek HUC boundaries showed 53.8 % residential land use, Red Butte Creek municipal boundaries and community providers totaled 26 % and 39 % residential use, respectively. Differences emerged when irrigated agriculture was assessed using HUC boundaries. Irrigated agriculture totaled 0.2 % in Red Butte Creek, with Logan showing 29. 7% and Heber irrigated agriculture sitting at 41.1 %.