Applying the RUSLE and SEDD Equations to an Agricultural Watershed in Southwest Virginia - A Case Study in Sediment Yield Estimation Using GIS


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Virginia Tech


The goal of this study is to develop a model using GIS to estimate the source and quantity of accumulated sediment in the Emory & Henry College (EHC) duck pond.  Located in the Highlands of Southwest Virginia, the 1,194 acre duck pond watershed consists primarily of agricultural, forested, and low density urban land uses.

The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and the Sediment Distributed Delivery (SEDD) prediction models were used to determine the quantity of eroded sediment and the sediment yield at the duck pond, respectively.  These models require numerous computations, which were performed at the watershed scale with the aid of ArcGIS software.  In ArcGIS the watershed was broken into a raster grid of approximately 5,200 discrete 100 foot by 100 foot grid cells.

The resulting watershed erosion model identified two main sources of sediment: a cluster of farms relatively close to and east of the duck pond, and a harvested timber site north of the duck pond.  The model predicted that 1,076 tons of sediment are delivered into the duck pond annually.

The estimated sediment yield was then compared to the estimated amount deposited between October 2011 and September 2012, as measured by a topographic survey.  The model prediction was found to be within a factor of 6.3x of the measured value.  The predicted and measured sediment yields as well as identified erosion sources can be used to develop a water quality improvement plan and to help alleviate the need for periodic dredging.



Hydrology, RUSLE, SEDD, Stormwater Management, Sediment Yield, ArcGIS