Eastern Geographic Science Center


Dr. Dianna Hogan
Research Physical Scientist

Illustration comparing distributed vs. centralized BMP.
Comparison of contrasting stormwater management strategies.
Centralized Best Management Practices (BMP) are often
located in the stream channel or directly adjacent to the stream,
whereas distributed BMP are dispersed throughout the
watershed on the landscape and can provide stormwater
treatment in series. Typically, centralized BMP are designed
to treat much larger drainage areas compared to distributed
BMP. A variety of BMP structures are used in distributed
implementations, and are discussed further on the What are
Stormwater Best Management Practices?
webpage. Source:
Loperfido, J.V., and Hogan, D.M., 2012, Effects of urban
stormwater-management strategies on stream-water quantity
and quality
: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 20123079,
2 p., available at

Table comparing distributed vs. centralized BMP.
Important differences in stream discharge from watersheds with
contrasting stormwater management strategies include broader
peaks during storm flow in the watershed with centralized Best
Management Practices (BMP) and higher stream base flow
following storm flow in the watershed with distributed BMP
(data source

How do you estimate Best Management Practices effectiveness?

There are multiple levels at which BMP may be evaluated for effectiveness: feature level, watershed or aggregate level, and regional level. Our work focuses on the feature and watershed, and compares distributed stormwater management to centralized stormwater management. Traditionally, stormwater BMP have been implemented in a centralized manner with BMP typically located in the stream channel or directly adjacent to the stream (see figure to the left). In contrast, recent development trends implement BMP on the landscape in a distributed manner with the goal of treating and retaining stormwater runoff at its source.

At the watershed level, analyses of effectiveness are conducted at a stream gauge located at the outflow of the watershed. Here, measures of water quality (for example, nutrient concentrations, conductivity, turbidity, and biological indices) and quantity (for example, stream discharge) can be conducted during both storm flow and base flow conditions. We are monitoring stream flow and water quality in multiple watersheds with different stormwater management protocols to better understand how different management techniques affect the stormwater quantity, flow, and quality. At each study site we use in-stream monitoring techniques to estimate flow (stream discharge), nutrient concentrations (phosphorus and nitrogen), turbidity, and conductivity. See also: Effects of stormwater management on streams fact sheet.

The use of stormwater management practices is continuing to evolve as more is learned about how they work for controlling watershed stormwater flow and pollutants (including nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment). Current urban development trends suggest that BMP use is moving towards a more distributed approach, with an emphasis on stormwater infiltration and individual property management techniques (for example, rain gardens, rain barrels, individual property dry wells, infiltration systems, and reuse systems).

bullet  Can Best Management Practices help protect streams in developed landscapes?
bullet  How do you estimate Best Management Practices effectiveness?

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