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Losing the Farm

How Changes in Land Surface Affect Storm Runoff


Edwin H. Price
Department of Physical and Life Sciences
Nevada State College


In this case study, students examine hydrologic characteristics of a real farm property in northwest Georgia and calculate the volume of storm runoff expected for a typical storm using the U.S. Soil Conservation Service (SCS) method. The case is used to teach components that need to be considered in evaluating precipitation runoff from a land surface. The farm land surface was greatly modified for a high-density residential subdivision. During the land use change, there were some unfortunate events that significantly affected the runoff characteristics of the property, causing damage to the property, neighboring structures, and the downstream environment. Students examine the significance of these changes with respect to runoff from a similar-sized storm. The case was developed for use in an introductory environmental hydrology course, but could also be adapted for a soil science course.


  • Using analytical reasoning, evaluate the changing hydrologic characteristics of a natural setting upon which to base computations.
  • Learn how various soil characteristics, coupled with different land uses, determine the volume of precipitation that will run off of a property in a single, typical storm event.
  • Learn that, when natural drainage characteristics are modified for a new land use, runoff must be controlled and discharges minimized by designed structures to prevent detrimental effects on adjacent areas.
  • Learn that exceptional storm precipitation events must be planned for in the design of runoff control structures


Erosion; runoff; soil; Social Conservation Service; hydrology; infiltration

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division



Type / Methods




Subject Headings

Hydrology  |   Environmental Engineering  |   Natural Resource Management  |   Earth Science  |   Environmental Science  |  

Date Posted


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Stefanie Stainton
Science Department
Pulaski High School
Pulaski, WI
I used this case study in my AP Environmental Science class today - it worked great! My students really valued the information in the case and wanted to be able to view it again for referencing how to calculate runoff.