Watershed-scale assessment of bank stability in an urban watershed, Springfield, Missouri


Stable stream banks reduce sedimentation problems, improve water quality, and enhance the aesthetic character of riparian lands. The purpose of this study is to assess the influence of urbanization on stream bank stability in the Ward Branch watershed (drainage area is 28.41 km2). The study watershed drains a karst area in the Ozarks of southwest Missouri. The headwaters are located in Springfield, the third largest city and one of the fastest growing urban areas in the state. Over the past decade, Ward Branch has been subjected to more frequent flooding and channel erosion. The objectives are to: (1) describe the spatial distribution of reach-scale bank conditions using the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program's bank stability index; (2) evaluate the patterns of geomorphic disturbance indicators by GPS mapping; and (3) provide baseline information for planning of stream restoration projects. Overall, 22 reaches were studied in the watershed with 15 on the main stem and 7 along Workman Branch, a major tributary. The most unstable banks are located in the upper portions of the watershed where urban runoff is concentrated and released to natural sections and along lower, more sinuous reaches, with higher fine-grained banks. Local bank erosion problems are also associated with poorly designed bank improvements, road culverts and bridges, and woody/construction debris jams. In general, bank erosion at the watershed-scale is related to proximity to urban areas or impaired riparian corridors.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Document Type

Conference Proceeding



Publication Date


Journal Title

Proceedings of the 2004 Self-Sustaining Solutions for Streams, Wetlands, and Watersheds Conference