Land-use/Water Resource Interactions: a GIS-focused Annotated Bibliography

Alessandra Harewood
GEO 565, Geographic Information Systems & Science

The following annotated bibliography covers a breadth of topics under the major theme: GIS in Land-use/Water Resource Interactions.  Though the specific topics vary widely, the following bibliography is divided under two subheadings: Models & Decision Support and Community Engagement & PGIS.  My research interest is understanding the factors that promote the passage and successful implementation of ecologically responsible (if not restorative) land-use policies.   These collected articles deal with both ends of policy – development and implementation.  Viewed as a collection, they address different stages of these processes and I hope capture two dialectics that are essential to those processes: scientific data vs. non-scientific knowledge and data collection vs. meaningful communication.

I. Models & Tools

Aspinall, R. and D. Pearson, D. Integrated geographical assessment of environmental condition in water catchments: Linking landscape ecology, environmental modelling and GIS. Journal of Environmental Management 59, no. 4 (August 2000).

The focus of this paper is explicitly land-use and water resource interactions on a watershed scale.  The paper integrates  remote sensing, landscape ecological analysis, and GIS  into a hydrologic model to evaluate the ecological health of the watershed and monitor change at the regional level.  The indicators the author uses for the assessment include temporal and spatial components focusing on both abiotic (e.g. physical/chemical), biotic factors, stability, resilience and sensitivity of the ecosystems. The model is applied to a watershed of the Yellowstone River which is exposed to a wide range of surrounding land-uses including mining, sports and recreation, agriculture, and residential development.  As with other papers, this presents a model to predict and understand the environmental impacts of land use on a stream system.


Bhaduri et al., Assessing Watershed-Scale, Long-Term Hydrologic Impacts of Land-Use Change Using a GIS-NPS Model. Environmental Management 26, no. 6 (12, 2000).

This article focuses on urbanization’s e on water resources, particularly non point source pollution as a function of increased impervious land-cover.  The authors note that several models exist that track and predict the affect of short storm bursts, but do not consider longer term hydrologic effects of small storms. The paper presents a long-term hydrologic impact assessment model (watershed scale) that uses long-term climatic records, soil and land-use data to estimate the yearly runoff and non point pollution and link it to GIS.  Little Eagle Creek in Indianapolis is the setting for the application of this model, where they found an 80% increase in annual average runoff resulted from a less than 20% increase in impervious surfaces between 1973 and 1991.  The model not only  serves as a potential tool for modifying land-use development strategies for future growth, but it may also be a way to communicate and demonstrate the impact of development to the public.


Cherian et al., A web-based GIS Decision Support System for managing and planning USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Environmental Modelling & Software 22, no. 9 (September 1, 2007).

Cherian et al developed a web-GIS decision support system meant to evaluate the Conservation Reserve Program – a federal program under the USDA that encourages farmers to conserve water and soil resources (quality and quantity) through a 10-15 year easement program.  The decision support system draws from ArcIMS GIS which incorporates of AFIRS (Automated Feature Information Retrieval System – the mapping component) with SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool – the modeling component).   AFIRS, as its names suggests, classifies image data by retrieving feature information and SWAT assesses the effect land-use practices have on sediment, water and agricultural chemical in basins. The final decision support tool was created with a “distributed environment” in mind.   This report is relevant because it is an example of an integration of model, data-visualization, and communication 1) to address the interface between natural resources and human impacts and 2) to identify opportunities for ecological restoration, and 3) facilitate the communication of that data to assist management decisions.


McKinney, D. C. and Cai, X. Linking GIS and water resources management models: an object-oriented method. Environmental Modelling & Software 17, no. 5 (2002).

In the paper, the authors tightly couple (a tightly coupled system occurring when data management in a GIS and a model share a database) a water allocation model with a GIS model using a object-oriented method.  The author’s draw from the literature to define object-oriented as consisting of spatial objects, thematic objects consisting of methods (functions describing relationships between spatial objects) and topics (tasks/objectives to be met by user). The thematic objects fell under three themes: node-link networks, physical laws and management policies, and mathematical models for analysis.  The model categorizes the river basin system into three components: source components, demand components (water uses, including in-stream uses), and intermediate components (e.g. water treatment plants, water-reuse and water recycling facilities).  The model allows the user to introduce changes into the system via the network modification tool.   It was also as a tool to help resolve conflicts regarding water quantity shortage in an arid climate. The model does not seem equipped, however, to handle complex future scenarios that involve climate change inputs.


Meenar,  M. Flamm, B.  Sorrentino, J. Suitable Housing Placement: A GIS-Based Approach. Environmental Management 42, no. 5 (November 1, 2008).

This paper produces alternative residential location scenarios in the Pennypack Creek Watershed of Philadelphia using projection data from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.    The paper produces a “trend development scenario” and a “suitable development scenario”, where the former is a demand driven scenario and the later is a sustainability driven scenario for which they created 6 elements of local sustainability including aspects related to government, environmental preservation, reduction of resource use, climate change mitigation, individuals and communities, and government.  While the case study provided specific recommendations for the region, the model itself could provide similar support for communities planning for future growth and concerned with maintenance of their resources.


Moilanen et al., Integrating conservation planning and landuse planning in urban landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning 91, no. 4 (January 1, 2009).

Strategic planning  based on a scientific analysis of landscape, species needs, and the demands for development is called for in the paper to prevent loss of crucial habitat, to protect biodiversity.  The authors use the Greater Melbourne area and its use of the Zonation conservation planning tool as it’s case study.  Considering species richness, connectivity, and prioritization of key species, the authors input this data to determine key areas for conservation associated with individual development projects then link this to the surrounding landscape. This paper does not deal with garnering public support for conservation or communication of conservation policies.  The tools presented in this paper are more for the front end of conservation planning and may be used to prioritize water resources protection areas and aid in environmental impact assessment.


Rao, D.P. A remote sensing-based integrated approach for sustainable development of land water resources. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics, Part C (Applications and Reviews) 31, no. 2 (5, 2001).

In this paper, the authors use data (surface water, ground water,  soil composition) collected from Remote Sensing and incorporate it with data  concerning societal demands (economic, sociocultural) with GIS.  The resulting visualization and data management and analysis allows for the identification of leverage points for conservation.  The opportunities for “intervention” that were identified involved using technology and expert consultation from a various disciplines (from physical science specialists to social science specialists and local knowledge experts).  This article is particularly exciting because the ensuing “action plan” seemed to produce favorable results (diminished degradation, restoration of waste sites, and conservation of groundwater).  Determining the potential for reproducing those positive results, and further delving into the causal mechanism of those results, might be an area for future research.


Tong, S.  and Chen, W. Modeling the relationship between land use and surface water quality. Journal of Environmental Management 66, no. 4 (December 2002).

The GIS analysis and modeling in this paper linked landuse to water quality in an Ohio watershed.  High levels of contaminants in this study were linked to both agricultural land and impervious land-cover using statistical analysis and Better Assessment Science Integrating Point and Nonpoint Sources (BASINS), a watershed physical-process-based assessment tool created by the USEPA.  The GIS analysis was relatively simple: overlays were used when some contaminant was deemed positively related to some type of landuse, a landuse layer was then overlayed by an overlay showing the distribution of said contaminant.  The resulting map showed the spatial relationship between those two layers.  The paper found an “unequivocal” relationship between land-use types and water contamination.

Wang et al., A river water quality model integrated with a web-based geographic information system. Journal of Environmental Management 75, no. 3 (May 2005)

Wang et al use GIS-ROUT, a water quality model based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Water-use Improvement and Impairment Model and incorporated into a web-based GIS, to predict the dispersal of sewage discharge from waste water treatment plants at a watershed scale and its effect on water chemistry at a given reach.   The ROUT model calculates end of reach concentration, assuming steady flow rates, using a mass-balance concept and considering advection, hydrodynamic dispersion and a first order reaction as the major functions. The GIS-ROUT model improved upon the predecessor by adding a spatial representation and analysis component.  The model was used to simulate 360,000 km of streams.  In addition to this, the web model and its presumably user-friendly visualizations allowed for interactive maps and allow planners and water managers to share information quickly.

Wealands, S.  and Zerger, A. Beyond Modelling: Linking Models with GIS for Flood Risk Management. Natural Hazards 33, no. 2 (October 1, 2004).

The decision support model described in this paper is designed to help disaster managers model different scenarios of flooding, linking flood inputs to consequences to allow for disaster planning.  It’s “hydrodyamic” because the flood models described in this paper incorporate time to model inundation in a series encompassing onset, duration, and completion – not simply end damage.   The system links GIS with a commercial database management system and allows for more rapid decision-making by reducing data volumes into manageable amounts relevant to the model.  Furthermore, the system produces results “in terms of risk to buildings, roads, and other spatial features” to provide answers to the following queries:

  • How many buildings and roads are inundated at each time step for each scenario?
  • Show all the buildings that are inundated for more than 1.5 hours, above floor height;
  • For the building at 20 McLeod St., show the time-series inundation for a Cat 3 cyclone approaching from the northeast?
  • How long does the building at 12 High Street stay inundated after the cyclone has passed?

(These queries are specific to the case study used in the paper)

Finally, the model allows managers to visualize risks, not simply hazards, which in flood management is an important distinction.


Xu et al., Integrated hydrologic modeling and GIS in water resources management. Journal of Computing in Civil Engineering 15 (2001).

The paper produces a model, coupling mathematical and hydrologic models with GIS to help land/water managers predict the effect new developments will have on water resources. The model is a tank model, a capacity-storage model type where the basin is divided into different grids that use topography, soil hydrodynamics, and land characteristics are uniform within the grid.  The model simulates evapotranspiration, snowmelt, aquifer recharge and other important hydrologic processes to produce potential hydrographs.  The output then is displayed visually through GIS.  This may be useful in envisioning alternative scenarios.



II. Community Engagement & PGIS

Duncan, A.  and Lach, D. Privileged Knowledge and Social Change: Effects on Different Participants of Using Geographic Information Systems Technology in Natural Resource Management. Environmental Management 38, no. 2 (6, 2006).

“The historic primacy of science as the apparent informant of natural resource policy decisions is under siege. According to some scholars, the idea that research should determine policy is justly criticized because experts do not inherently have the capacity to frame the dimensions of an environmental problem in ways the public will understand.”

The above quote struck me as the unifying theme of this article, which explores how different groups respond to GIS visualizations of data.  The underlying premise of the article is one that questions the objectivity of science, where science is a “storymaking” enterprise.  This is evident in the visualization of data using GIS, particularly when used in public forums for decision-making.  What is displayed out the map and how it is emphasized may tell a different story than if other aspects of the physical world were emphasized on the map.  Given the backdrop of what the authors suggest as a long history of accepting the neutrality of maps as a force to close the information gap, the authors point out that maps have always been a tool used to benefit it’s maker.

Still, PGIS offers the opportunity to level the inequality of access associated with this technocrat controlled field.  The authors cite research suggesting that PGIS may be trans-formative, bridging the divide among sex/class/academie by allowing the tool in more hands and allowing other forms of knowledge to compete/inform/enrich scientific forms of knowledge.    The difficulty is that, since data can be manipulated, understanding maps and gaining truth from data visualizations is as much a process of understanding the developer of the map as it is comprehending what is being portrayed.

The study itself involved interviewing a small group of individuals who attended a  Coastal Landscape Analysis and Modeling Study workshop.  Due to the small sample size, the article is most useful for the literature review, framing of the issues, and directions for future research.
Dunn, C. Participatory GIS — a people’s GIS?.  Progress in Human Geography 31, no. 5 (October 2007).

The authors note the varying arguments and critiques surrounding GIS.  One subject that resonated is the notion that because GIS was largely developed by and for use of white male academics and governmental officials, its use becomes less appropriate the more it deviates from that group and culture.  PGIS, on the other hand, is an attempt to broaden that base and put PGIS in the hands of others.  In addition to that white male academic or government official base, GIS is also rooted in North American culture and there are questions that GIS may not translate well across that boundary.  The authors point out that PGIS, again, is meant to broaden the scope and extend GIS to marginalized potential users.  Despite this, PGIS, by elucidating different groups understanding of space, may bring about as much conflict as it is proposed to bring collaboration.


Hassan, M.M. Arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh: spatial mitigation planning with GIS and public participation. Health Policy 74, no. 3 (November 2005): 247-260.

Hassan used traditional and PGIS approaches ton incorporate local knowledge into maps to determine best placement of new deep tubewells in an area dealing with widespread arsenic poisoning.  This paper is an example of a combination of GIS and anthropological methods to produce community plans.  The transformative nature of participatory GIS or, more broadly, collective visualization of problems and solutions, demonstrated in this paper supports the findings from Lach & Duncan (2006). The author also mentioned using Mental Mapping and incorporating that into the GIS map, but it is unclear how that was actually captured in the GIS database is unclear.  The article, however, does provide an example of PGIS as a support tool for problem solving related to difficult water resource issues of safety and access.

Kyem, P. Of intractable conflicts and participatory GIS applications: The search for consensus amidst competing claims and institutional demands. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94, no. 1 (2004).

The article explores the role GIS plays in conflict resolution.  In the article, the authors suggest that two major theories, Habermas Communication Theory and Weber’s rational model based notion of instrumental behavior, dominate the discourse regarding cooperative and competitive problem solving respectively.  The author’s suggest that though individually the theories are inadequate alone to describe GIS’s role in conflict resolution, together they are useful frameworks for describing the drivers of conflict.

The article also addresses the unequal access of GIS technology and the power dynamic consequences of a technology gap.  Though GIS, when only accessible to one party, may create a power and information differential between parties that may create a basis for increased conflict, GIS may be used as a tool to help close the information gap and bring about cooperation through shared understanding.  The authors further suggest that GIS is likely to only be useful for with-in group conflicts, where conflicts occur between individuals or groups that share common beliefs/values, have a dense network of relationships, and share a common identity.  Even in these conditions, information conveyed using GIS can garner pre-existing beliefs but when participants are involved in the collection of data rather than merely the consumption, there is more opportunity for GIS to help resolve with-in group conflicts.

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