Buffalo River (New York)

Watershed Characteristics

Buffalo River

The Buffalo River watershed encompasses approximately 445 square miles and and drains portions of Buffalo and Wyoming counties in western New York state, including three major subwatersheds: Cayuga, Buffalo, and Cazenovia Creeks. The Buffalo River is a tributary to Lake Erie and discharges to a Federal navigation channel at Buffalo Harbor in Buffalo, New York.

Landuse distribution in the Buffalo River watershed

Land use within the watershed is primarily agricultural and woodland in the upper basin; and primarily developed and industrial in the lower basin. The terrain consists of gently rolling dissected glacial plateau along the Lake Erie shoreline.

Streambank erosion is a considerable source of contamination in the Buffalo River, where ice scour during winter months flushes polluted sediment into the river and streams.

Modeling Approach

Spatial map of the watershed showing SWAT simulated sediment concentrations in streamflow for individual subbasins

Better Assessment Science Integrating Point and Nonpoint Sources (BASINS) was used to develop a GIS database and update land use/land cover. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was used to evaluate sub-watershed sediment transport and yields. SWAT modeling was also used to predict ice scouring damage, spring storm event sediment generation, and sediment yields at the inlet of the Federal navigable channel. ECOMSED modeling was then used to track cohesive sediments contributed at the channel inlet and those already in the navigation channel.

Modeling was completed in August of 2004. Training for state and local partners took place in September of 2004.

Use and Applications

Buffalo River

The Natural Resource Conservation Service and the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning will use these models to advise on the implementation of best management practices throughout the Buffalo River watershed. State and Federal agencies can also use the models to analyze watershed-scale sedimentation impacts on the Federal navigation channel.

Project Partners

For More Information:


Mike Voorhees
USACE, Buffalo District
1776 Niagara Street
Buffalo, NY 14207
Phone: (716) 879-4488