Developing a GIS-Based Soil Erosion Potential

Model for the Jemez Watershed – Using the
Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE)

Josh Page

CE 547 – GIS in Water Resource Engineering
April 30th 2012

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Table of Contents
Background………………………………………………………………………………………..3
Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation…………………………………………………………….3
Methodology………………………………………………………………………………………4
Study Area………………………………………………………………………………………...4
Analysis……………………………………………………………………………………………6
Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………….…10
Acknowledgements………………………………………………………………………………10
References………………………………………………………………………………………..10
Appendix 1 – Procedures………………………………………………………………………...11
Appendix 2 – Abbreviations……………………………………………………………………..12
Appendix 3 – Data Dictionary…………………………………………………………………...13

List of Figures
Figure 1. Overlay of the RUSLE Model using ArcGIS…………………………………………...3
Figure 2. Location of Jemez Watershed in TIN Raster…………………………………………...5
Figure 3. National Land Cover Data of Jemez Watershed………………………………………..5
Figure 4. USDA Isoerodent Map Georeferenced & Geocoded …………………………………..6
Figure 5. 10m Raster Interpolation from Isoerodent lines…………………………………….......6
Figure 6. Sandoval Soil Survey Shapefile with K-Factors………………………………………..6
Figure 7. LS Output from IAMG C++ Program, 10m DEM……………………………………...7
Figure 8. USGS LCI Shapefile Representing Vegetation Communites………………………….7
Figure 9. Raster of Generalized C-Factor Values………………………………………………...7
Figure 10. Raster of P-Factor under Natural Circumstances……………………………………...9
Figure 11. Final 10m Raster of Potential Soil Loss from RUSLE Model…………………….......9
Table 1. Cover Management, “C” Factors for pastures, rangelands, and idle land……………….8
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Background
Throughout the United States soil erosion poses many environmental issues including:
soil degradation, sedimentation, desertification, and water quality degradation. In the Southwest,
all of these environmental issues are extremely prevalent and detrimental. Another issue that is
related closely to this is extreme events of soil erosion that occurs in areas prone to natural fires.
Usually a fire event arises from a storm system, which has a high potential to cause massive
amounts of erosion to the point of mudslides and debris flows. The main motivation behind this
report is to better understand the types of lands that are more easily subjected to potential waterborne soil erosion. In conjunction with this preliminary model, further work will be done in
attempt to create an erosion model specifically for fire related debris flows. This study looks at a
rather large subbasin in the greater Albuquerque area, in an effort to properly create a soil loss
model using a GIS program for proper analysis and visualization.
RevisedUniversalSoilLossEquation
The Universal Soil Loss
Equation (USLE) was first developed in
the 1960s by Wischmeier and Smith of
the United States Department of
Agriculture as a field scale model. [1]
It was later revised in 1997 in an effort
to better estimate the values of the
various parameters in the USLE. [2]

Figure1. Overlay of the RUSLE Model using ArcGIS.

There are five major factors that are used to calculate the soil loss for a given site. Each
parameter is the arithmetic estimate of a specific condition that affects the severity of soil erosion
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at a particular location. The calculated erosion values reflected by this model can vary
significantly due to fluctuating weather conditions. Thus, the erosion values obtained from the
RUSLE more accurately represents long-term averages. The RUSLE uses the simple equation
(A = R x K x LS x C x P). Where ‘A’ is the average annual potential soil loss in tons/acre/year,
‘R’ is the rainfall-runoff erosivity factor, ‘K’ is the soil erodibility factor, ‘LS’ is the slope
length and degree, ‘C’ is the land-cover management factor, and ‘P’ is the conservation practice
factor. [2] Each parameter will be described in more detail in this report.
Methodology
All data came from the New Mexico Resource Geographic Information System Program,
which is a clearinghouse for other sources including: the USDA, USGS, and NRCS. Since their
server uses the geographic coordinate system WGS 1984 projection and datum, all maps were
kept in this state. Since most of the parameters were in the vector form, they were converted into
rasters with a cell size of 10m so that the model could accurately calculate the soil loss potential.
All of the analysis and manipulation of data was performed in an ArcEditor environment.
Study Area
The Jemez watershed is a subbasin in north central New Mexico, just north of
Albuquerque. It covers a total of 664,810 acres of land, with land cover being mostly shrublands
(in the south) and Pinon-Juniper forests (in the north). [3] Because of the variability in elevation
and land cover, this watershed is a prime location of testing the RUSLE Model. As seen in
Figures 2 & 3, there is a distinct difference between the southern and northern parts of the
catchment. Because of this, soil loss should be distinctly different in both biomes as well.

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Figure2. Location of Jemez Watershed in a TIN Raster.

Figure3. Natural Land Cover Data of Jemez Watershed. 2006

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Analysis
R-Factor: As stated earlier the R-Factor is
the rainfall erosivity parameter. This is highly
affected by storm intensity, duration, and potential.
During the revision of the USLE, the USDA
created contours of the spatial variation of the RFigure4. USDA Isoerodent Map Georeferenced and Geocoded

Factor throughout the continental US. [4] Figure 4
depicts these ‘isoerodent’ lines in the state of New
Mexico, and more importantly the Jemez
Watereshed. Because rainfall is more spatially
variable then the static isoerodent lines, a simple
raster interpolation was used to create the dataset
used for the R-Factor (Figure 5).
K-Factor: The soil erodibility parameter is

Figure5. 10m Raster Interpolation from Isoerodent Lines

based off of soil texture, structure, organic matter, and even permeability. [5] The NRCS,
conduct soil surveys throughout the country,
Jemez Watershed K Factor
and these surveys contain GIS shapefiles with
tabular data which holds the K-Factor for each
soil type found in the survey. [6] Soils high in
clays tend to have low K Values (0.05-0.15)
because they are more resistant to detachment.
Figure 6 shows the raster created for the KFigure6. Sandoval Soil Survey Shapefile with K Factors

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Factor. Note that most of the high K values are in the Southern part of the catchment.
LS-Factor: Using ArcGIS to calulate the
degree of the slope is a fairly easy spatial analysts
tool, but determining the length of those slopes are
mathmatically intensive to compute. In order to
calulate this parameter, a specailly desgned C++
program developed by the Internaltional
Figure7. LS Output from IAMG C++ Program, 10m DEM

Association of Mathematical Geosciences was used.
[7] This program uses algorithms to produce a text file of the LS-Factor that can be converted
into a DEM. Figure 7 shows the output from their program, which was used as the LS-Factor.
C-Factor: This parameter is a ratio comparing the soil loss from a specific type of
vegetation cover. It is used to determine the
effectiveness a crop/vegetation management sytem
has on preventing soil loss. [5] In this study the CFactor is a generalization of specific vegetation
cover
from a
Figure8. USGS LCI Shapefile Representing Vegetation Communities

NDVI,
satellite imagry, and a vegetation cover shapefile from
the USGS Land Cover Institue. Using Figure 8 and
Table 1, the C-Factor raster (Figure 9) was created
after extensive comparison of the three different

Figure9. Raster of Generalized C-Factor Values

imagery types.
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Specific
C-Values based
Canopy
Surfacerangelands,
Cover (Goldman
et al.
1986)
Table1.Table
CoverofManagement,
“C”onFactors
forand
pastures,
and idle
land
(Goldman et al. 1986)

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P-Factor: The P value represents the ratio of soil loss by a certain crop support practice
compared to that of straight-row farming
up and down the slope. After extensive
research, it was noted that the different
Pueblos in the Southern portion of the
watershed do not make their agriculture
management available to the public. So,
http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/00-001.pdf

for this study the ratio will be kept at 1,
indicating strait-row farming. [5] Figure

Figure10. Raster of P-Factor under Natural Circumstances

10 shows a raster image with all values at 1.
RUSLE Output: From these five 10m rasters, a simple raster calculation was computed
to get the soil loss potential for each 10m x 10m cell. Figure 11 shows the raster output from the
RUSLE Model. The results
make sense, seeing how the
most potential is in the
Southern part of the
watershed which is the area
that has less cover. The
locations with no potential
are areas of either no slope,
Figure11. Final 10m Raster of Potential Soil Loss from RUSLE Model

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or water bodies.

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Conclusion
This watershed has the proper variability to concisely prove the effectiveness of this
model. From basic overlays of the 5 variables and the raster calculator, the model was accurately
depicted. For a more precise calculation the C and F-Factors will need to be more exact, since
these two factors are the only two that can be managed and changed. This preliminary step
proves to be helpful in future attempts to model debris flow following a fire event.
Acknowledgements
Thanks to EDAC and RGIS for providing a gateway to collect data. Thanks to the
USGS, the USDA, and NRCS for making data accessible to the public. Thanks to IAMG for
their extensive research in the field of Mathematical Geosciences and Open-Source Programs.
References
[1] Wall et. al. 2002RUSLE FAC – Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation for Application in Canada. Research
Branch, Agriculture and Argi-Food Canada. AAFC/AAC2244E. 117 pp.
Accessed online 04-01-2012 at http://sis.agr.gc.ca/cansis/publications/manuals/2002-92/rusle-can.pdf
[2] Renard et. al. 1997. Predicting soil erosion by water: a guide to conservation planning with the revised universal
soil loss equation (RUSLE). USDA Agriculture Handbook 703, 382pp.
[3] Rapid Watershed Assessment, Jemez Watershed. 2005. USDA & NRCS Rapid Watershed Assessments.
Accessed online 04-01-2012 at http://www.nm.nrcs.usda.gov/soils/watershed/RWAs/Jemez.pdf
[4] Stormwater Phase II Final Rule, Construction Rainfall Erosivity Waiver. 2012. EPA, Office of Water. 883-F-00014, Fact Sheet 3.1. Accessed online 04-01-2012 at http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/fact3-1.pdf
[5] Stone, and Hilborn. 2000. Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) Fact Sheet. Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture,
Food and Rural Affairs. AGDEX 572/751. Accessed online 04-01-2012 at
http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/00-001.pdf
[6] Soil Survey of Sandoval County Area, New Mexico. 2005. NRCS, SSURGO data. Accessed online at
http://soildatamart.nrcs.usda.gov/manuscripts/NM656/0/Sandoval%20NM.pdf
[7] Remortel et. al. Computing the LS factor for the revised universal soil loss equation through array-based slope
processing of digital elevation data using C++ executable. 2004Computers & Geosciences v. 30, no.9/10, pp. 10431053. Accessed online at http://www.iamg.org/index.php/publisher/articleview/frmArticleID/107

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Appendix 1
Procedures:
1) Collected 10m DEM, Vegetation Cover, NLCD, NDVI, and SSURGO data sets for
Sandoval County, NM from RGIS online.
2) Collected Country-wide Isorodent map from EPA online.
3) Downloaded Open-Source program from IAMG online, to calculate LS-Factor.
4) Converted 10m DEM into TIN file in ArcGIS for more visual representation.
5) Opened NLCD data in ArcGIS, clipped out the Jemez Watershed, and created proper
symbology.
6) Geo-referenced Isoerodent map of New Mexico to a New Mexico State Boundary File
from RGIS (WGS 84).
7) Geocoded Isoerodent lines using a polyline feature class which was created.
8) Clipped out the Jemez Watershed from Geo-referenced Isoerodent map of NM.
9) Conducted an interpolation (topo to raster tool) of isolines for the Jemez Watershed, at
10m cell size.
10) Opened SSURGO dataset and clipped out the Jemez Watershed.
11) In the SSURGO data, a join was made to add the K-Factor fields to the shapefile,
12) Coverted vector polygons into raster format, with a 10m cell size, proper symbology was
chosen.
13) Converted 10m DEM into ASCII text file to be used in IAMG C++ Program.
14) Ran IAMGs C++ Program, took 12 hours to calculate – but gave a text output.
15) Coverted new ASCII text file into a raster DEM at 10m cells for the LS-Factor, proper
symbology used.
16) Clipped out the Jemez Watershed from the Vegetation Cover and NDVI cover from
Sandoval County.
17) Exported each individual polygon of Vegetation Cover layer to compare with NDVI and
Satellite Imagery to determine the C-Factor from Table 1.
18) In each Vegetation polygon a new field was created named C_Factor, and from Table 1
proper values were recorded.
19) Each individual polygon was then merged using the Append Tool to each other till the
watershed was complete, proper symbology was used for the new calculated C-Factor.
20) New C-Factor vector polygons were converted into a raster with 10m cell size.
21) For P-Factor, the 10m DEM was recalculated so that each cell had a value of 1.
22) Raster Calculator was used to multiply the 5 variables to receive a raster output with a
cell size of 10m of the potential soil loss of the Jemez watershed.
23) Symbology was changed to Classified with 6 classes, representing the ranges for soil
loss severity.

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Appendix 2
Abbreviations:
RUSLE – Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation
GIS – Geographic Information System
RGIS – New Mexico Resource Geographic Information System
USDA – United States Department of Agriculture
USGS – United States Geological Survey
NRCS – Natural Resources Conservation Service
HUC – Hydrologic Unit Code
NLCD – National Land Cover Dataset
LCI – Land Cover Index
IAMG – Internaltional Association of Mathematical Geosciences
DEM – Digital Elvation Model
NDVI – Normalized Difference Vegetation Index
SSURGO – Soil Survey Geographic

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Appendix 3
Data Dictionary:
All projections are in the geographic coordinate system WGS 1984 projection and datum.
Source of all shapefiles (HUC 13020202, DEM, NLCD, SSURGO, Vegetation Cover, & NDVI)
are from RGIS. http://rgis.unm.edu/
Isoerodent Map from USGS. http://www.epa.gov/npdes/pubs/fact3-1.pdf
Source of C++ Program for LS-Factor is IAMG. http://www.iamg.org/
Source of Table 1 (Goldman et al. 1986)

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