About this Project
This WATERS Test Bed project is one of eleven environmental field observatories funded by National Science Foundation in 2006 to advance concepts of digital watersheds, sensor networks, hydrologic information systems, and design and operation of large-scale field facilities. This project, Quantifying Urban Groundwater in Environmental Field Observatories: A Missing Link in Understanding How the Built Environment Affects the Hydrologic Cycle, focuses on the Gwynns Falls watershed, a 171-sq km basin in the Baltimore Metropolitan Region that lies within the Patapsco drainage to the Chesapeake Bay, as the primary area of study. This site is also part of the NSF LTER Baltimore Ecosystem Study, chosen because it traverses an urban-to-rural gradient of development. The watershed crosses the Fall Zone, the transition between the Atlantic Coastal Plain and Piedmont physiographic provinces. The goal is to establish a methodology to quantify flowpaths, fluxes, and stores of groundwater in urban areas at multiple scales. Examples of scientific questions that can be addressed with the test-bed include: evaluating the effect of subsurface infrastructure on groundwater flowpaths and fluxes, closing the urban water budget at multiple scales, and improving estimates of nutrient export from urban watersheds through a better understanding of the groundwater component of the hydrologic cycle.
The nested scales of interest are, from left to right: (1) The Baltimore region, mostly contained in the Gunpowder-Patapsco (3500 sq km); (2) the Gwynns Falls watershed (171 sq km); (3) Dead Run catchment (14.3 sq km), including subwatersheds of Dead Run. Larger versions of the middle and right panel can be found on the data page.