This chapter discusses the characteristics of the stormwater flow that runs off of urban impervious surfaces. It describes in detail the high flows of short duration, called “flashy flows,” that cause great damage to streams and riparian areas and the resulting reduced water storage throughout the watershed, which reduces the base flow in streams between rainfalls. In contrast to urbanized areas, the chapter shows that peak flows decrease and base flows increase with increasing natural cover in a watershed. The chapter also introduces the runoff models that predict peak flows of fully urbanized watersheds are roughly six times greater than watersheds in natural land cover, and these high peak flows occur with higher frequency, in response to relatively small rainfall events. Also covered is the resulting stream erosion that leads to downstream sediments and harm to the ecosystems of streams, lakes, and oceans.
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