Case Study

Water Quality

Rutland, VT: Trees Reduce Surface Water Pollution


Expanded canopy cover targeted to meet TMDL requirements for impaired stream.

Town uses precision data management to achieve Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) with expanded tree canopy.

Rutland, Vermont

Humid continental


City: 95% White; 1% Black; 1% Latino; 1% Asian

Below Poverty Line: 22% Individuals

In 2009, a TMDL for Moon Brook – an impaired stream in Rutland, Vermont – was established to reduce the impacts from stormwater runoff. The city wanted to leverage its robust urban forest program and canopy to help meet its reduction goals. Viewed as the most cost-efficient solution, they conducted an analysis of the existing canopy as well as areas where canopy could be expanded with maximum impact on the Moon Brook watershed.

They found that the city was maintaining 37% urban canopy, with another 51% of city area that could support trees. This data was integrated into a parcel-scale GIS layer of the city’s decision support system. With this type of high resolution mapping, the town was able to target where conservation and expansion of canopy would be most effective, considering zoning requirements and planting efforts within the watershed.


US Forest Service

  • Strong involvement with state’s urban forestry staff
  • University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Lab is one of the nation’s premier providers and innovators in develop GIS tree canopy analyses
  • University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Lab
  • Department of Natural Resources, Vermont
  • US Forest Service
  • City of Rutland, Vermont
Lessons Learned
  • Understanding existing and potential UTC at the parcel-scale allows for precision planting to maximize outcome
  • Zoning- level summaries can be used for targeting tree planting and preservation efforts within different regions of the City.
  • Seek the best GIS capability you can.
Related Resources