Articles | Volume 13, issue 8
12 Aug 2009
 | 12 Aug 2009

Future directions for hydropedology: quantifying impacts of global change on land use

M. J. Vepraskas, J. L. Heitman, and R. E. Austin

Abstract. Hydropedology is well positioned to address contemporary issues resulting from climate change. We propose a six-step process by which digital, field-scale maps will be produced to show where climate change impacts will be greatest for two land uses: a) home sites using septic systems, and b) wetlands. State and federal laws have defined critical water table levels that can be used to determine where septic systems will function well or fail, and where wetlands are likely to occur. Hydrologic models along with historic rainfall and temperature data can be used to compute long records of water table data. However, it is difficult to extrapolate such data across land regions, because too little work has been done to test different ways for doing this reliably. The modeled water table data can be used to define soil drainage classes for individual mapping units, and the drainage classes used to extrapolate the data regionally using existing digital soil survey maps. Estimates of changes in precipitation and temperature can also be input into the models to compute changes to water table levels and drainage classes. To do this effectively, more work needs to be done on developing daily climate files from the monthly climate change predictions. Technology currently exists to use the NRCS Soil Survey Geographic (SSURGO) Database with hydrologic model predictions to develop maps within a GIS that show climate change impacts on septic system performance and wetland boundaries. By using these maps, planners will have the option to scale back development in sensitive areas, or simply monitor the water quality of these areas for pathogenic organisms. The calibrated models and prediction maps should be useful throughout the Coastal Plain region. Similar work for other climate-change and land-use issues can be a valuable contribution from hydropedologists.