Review of highway runoff characteristics: Comparative analysis and universal implications

Masoud Kayhanian, Boaz D. Fruchtman, John S. Gulliver, Comasia Montanaro, Ezio Ranieri, Stefan Wuertz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

130 Scopus citations


This review interprets highway runoff characterization studies performed on different continents. The results are synthesized to discuss the historical trends, first flush effects of pollutants, pollutant form as dissolved vs. particulate, and to identify surrogate water quality parameters. The information presented in this review showed that: (1) variability has been observed in all quality parameters from each continent and among continents; (2) with a few exceptions the variability seems to be within the expected range; (3) inconsistent monitoring data as well as inconsistent quality assurance and quality control measures were reported among studies, which may be partially responsible for variability of water quality results; (4) compared with historic data, the concentration of total Pb decreased exponentially, which can mostly be credited to leaded gasoline phase-out regulation; (5) first flush effects of pollutants based on concentration have been reported consistently (however, mass first flush effects for pollutants have been reported inconsistently compared with concentration first flush effect); (6) most metal pollutants and phosphorus are present in both the particulate and dissolved forms; and (7) strong correlations were observed between TSS, TDS, TOC and iron (Fe) and 13 other constituents and water quality parameters (turbidity, O&G, TPH, DOC, TKN, EC, Cl, Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6609-6624
Number of pages16
JournalWater Research
Issue number20
StatePublished - Dec 15 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
When performing this review we tried our best to include all relevant published papers. If we missed any peer-reviewed publication, it was unintentional. Partial funding for the preparation of this manuscript was provided through the J.S. Braun/Braun Intertec Professorship Award from the University of Minnesota. Some of the published literature in North America was from California Statewide Highway Runoff Characterization Studies that were funded by the Caltrans Division of Environmental Analysis . We are also thankful to the special issue guest editor and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Dissolved and particulate pollutants
  • First flush effect
  • Highway runoffs
  • Historic Pb review
  • Pollutant variability
  • Surrogate parameters


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