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Approaches for assessing long-term annual yields of highway and urban runoff in selected areas of California with the Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM)

June 28, 2021

The California Department of Transportation, commonly known as CalTrans, and other municipal separate storm sewer system permittees in California as well as other State departments of transportation nationwide need information about potential loads and yields (loads per unit area) of constituents of concern in stormwater runoff and discharges from stormwater best management practices (BMPs). Although its National Pollution Discharge Elimination System stormwater permit is focused on areas subject to total maximum daily load (TMDL) regulations, CalTrans builds and maintains BMPs to minimize the adverse effects of roadway runoff on receiving waters throughout the State. This report describes approaches used by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with CalTrans for using the Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM) to assess long-term annual yields of highway and urban runoff in selected areas of California. In this study, a series of regional and local yields were simulated to provide statewide planning-level estimates and more refined TMDL-specific yield values. SELDM was used to analyze 368 State roadway and urban runoff yields for 53 runoff quality constituents. The analyses included 222 random-seed analyses, 60 regional State roadway-runoff analyses, 24 regional urban roadway-runoff analyses, and 62 focused TMDL-area analyses.

This report describes approaches and statistics used to analyze available hydrologic and runoff quality data in all analyses. Results for all analyses are provided in the model archive, but only a selected subset of results are presented as examples in this report. State roadway runoff, urban runoff, and BMP discharge yields for total suspended solids, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and total zinc were selected as examples because they are widespread constituents of concern with substantial amounts of State roadway and urban runoff monitoring data. In this report, a hypothetical basin was specified by using available geographic information to demonstrate use of the State roadway and urban runoff yields to estimate long-term annual stormwater loads from developed areas. Application of these yields to the hypothetical basin indicates that although State-roadway yields may be higher than urban-runoff yields for some constituents, State-roadway loads may be a small proportion of total stormwater loads because State roadways themselves are a small fraction of the total impervious area in such basins. Although application of results from this study may have considerable uncertainty for any particular stormwater outfall, the study does provide robust estimates to support basin-scale runoff-load analyses in California. These analyses also provide estimates for the 12 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency level III ecoregions that are completely or partially within the boundaries of the State of California.