GEOG576-01: Advanced Watershed Analysis

GEOG576-01: Advanced Watershed Analysis

Fall 2021

Instructor:   T. Biggs   email:

Class Times:   T/Th  1100-1215

Location of class: Storm Hall 324

Office Hours: Mon 1030-11am; Thurs 1230-1pm or by appointment

TA:  Camila Abe.  TA Office Hours: Mon 5pm-7pm at room SH 324 or at (

Modality:  In person lectures and computer labs

Covid vaccination and masking requirements here.

Course welcome video

Course Overview

GEOG 576 introduces the theory and techniques for analyzing watershed processes, including surface water hydrology, water quality, and geomorphology.  Tools include geographic information systems (GIS), statistical analysis (R software package), and simple hydrological models.  Focus will be on rainfall-runoff analysis, water quality, sediment budgets, and stream morphology.

  • Prerequisites: GEOG 101 or 370 are encouraged.   Prior experience with GIS (GEOG 484 or equivalent) is encouraged.

Course Materials

  • Required: Water in Environmental Planning, 1978.  Dunne, T and Leopold, L.  H. Freeman and Company.  Available new in the SDSU Bookstore or used online.
  • Additional readings from book chapters and journal articles will be posted on Canvas.
  • For lab exercises, students may use own computer that can 1) run Rstudio Desktop and QGIS (both are free ware); otherwise students will use the lab computers, but access hours outside of class time may be limited.
  • Please bring headphones to lab sessions.

Course Structure

  • This class will be in person, with homework that includes non-synchronous pre-recorded content.  The class sessions include points for participation and discussion.
  • If you are feeling sick or test positive for covid-19, please do not come to class; instead, you can attend with the following zoom link:  Please see information below on what to do if you test positive for covid-19.
  • The class will use Canvas for access to content, assignments, and grade management.

Course Design, Assessment and Grading

  • The main assignments include homework (N=3), participation on quizzes and reading responses, two exams, and a final project including a presentation, final draft, and revised version.  The final project can be based on either literature review, or on data analysis.  More information is provided in the assignment on the final project.  See % weights in the "Assignments are weighted by group".  The "Assignments" category is the Exercises, which prepare you to do the HW but are not graded.

Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

1.  Define watersheds and watershed analysis, and describe different procedures for performing watershed analysis.
2.  Describe watershed processes, including the generation and transport of water and material.
3.  Use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and statistical software (R) to analyze watershed data.
4.  Formulate a research question about a watershed process and answer it using literature and/or original data.
5.  Present results of watershed analysis in oral and written form.

Module Calendar

The course content is organized in "Modules".  The modules go roughly by the week.  Below are links to each module:

Dates Module and Topic Lab exercise Due dates


M1: Introduction and watershed analysis.  Exercise 1. Intro to QGIS and data sources


M2: Watershed delineation and channel network analysis. Exercise 2:  Watershed delineation and stream networks.


M3: Precipitation. Exercise 3:  Land use and topography visualization; install R and Rstudio



M4:  Interception and evapotranspiration Exercise 4:  Station rainfall analysis HW 1 DUE 9/15


M5: Water Balance and Stormflow. Exercise 5:  Discharge data and analysis. Project topic DUE 9/24


M6:  Streamflow:  Flow duration analysis Exercise 6:  Flow duration curves and stormflow


M7: Streamflow Part 2 Review HW2, Exam 1 review sheet HW 2 DUE 10/8


M8:  Exam review Exam 1 Exam 1 10/14


M9: Water quality: Overview, concentrations and loads Exercise 7: Water quality and Q-C plots


M10: Nutrients Exercise 8:  Hysteresis and load calculations


M11: Loading models Discuss HW3


M12:  Sediment budgets Exercise 9: Land cover HW 3 DUE Nov 12


M13:  Stream morphology

Exam 2 review sheet



Thanksgiving break - Final draft of class project DUE Nov 23


Student presentations Student presentations Project Presentations


Student presentations Exam 2 Exam 2 Dec 9


Project revisions DUE Dec 14

Computer lab hours

See Lab schedule below.  Red indicates a class is in the room and is unavailable.  Other times the lab will be open and available for your use.




University Policies:  Effective fall 2021, students who register for face-to-face classes are expected to attend as indicated in the course schedule. Faculty assigned to teach face-to-face courses are not required to create a new, alternative on-line class as an accommodation for any student, though I will do my best to accomodate students by providing simultaneous zoom broadcasts of lectures and lab sessions. 

If you miss class because of COVID-19, either because you have tested positive and are isolated or have been instructed by a medical provider or health official to quarantine due to exposure to an infected close contact, you are required to send an email to to notify the university.

If you are ill or must quarantine, I will strive to accommodate your needs by extending deadlines, excusing absences, or providing other short-term forms of support. If you need a more lasting, long term modification of the course to meet a disability or medical-related need, please contact the Student Ability Success Center (SASC) to register for accommodations through their typical process. Students must present SASC with medical/disability-documentation from a health provider that specifically indicates risk in face-to-face courses. SASC Counselors will engage in the interactive process with the student to review reasonable accommodations.  

Interacting with the instructor

I'll try to respond within 24-48 hours to emails sent me from *within Canvas*. I do not answer emails <24 hours before assignments are due (homework or papers) or <24 hours before exams.  If Canvas is not working or for non-course-related communications, write to me using my outside email address:

Student Accommodations

If you are a student with a disability and believe you will need accommodations for this class, it is your responsibility to contact Student Ability Success Center at (619) 594-6473.  To avoid any delay in the receipt of your accommodations, you should contact Student Ability Success Center as soon as possible.  Please note that accommodations are not retroactive, and that I cannot provide accommodations based upon disability until I have received an accommodation letter from Student Ability Success Center.  Your cooperation is appreciated.

Starting Fall 2019 all accommodated exams are be booked through SASC Connect, an online portal for Student Ability Success Center. Paper booking forms will not be accepted.

Technical Support for canvas

Student support for Canvas is provided by the Library Computing Hub. They can be reached at 619-594-3189 or

Student Privacy and Intellectual Property

The instructor will assure privacy of student grades and feedback on individual assignments as well as notify students if work will be retained beyond end of term or circulated.

Late work policy

The grade of any work handed in late, including homework and papers, will be deducted 5% for each business day late. For example, if a homework is due on a Friday, any work handed in Monday will have the final grade reduced by 5%, on Tuesday will be deducted 10%, etc. Excused late work is granted in only extraordinary circumstances of illness or emergencies.

Academic Integrity

This class will adhere to SDSU's policies on cheating and plagiarism.  Please review these policies, in particular prior to preparing homework and class projects.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due