This paper describes the results of benchmark testing of land use change impact on direct runoff using Soil Conservation Service-Curve Number (SCS-CN) model in two ungauged neighbouring urban watersheds (Cinar and Kadiyakuplu) in Istanbul, Turkey. To examine this impact, the model was applied to daily rainfall data using three different dated (1982, 1996 and 2012) hydrological soil groups and land use of the two ungauged urban watersheds. Finally, the impact of land use change and model performance were evaluated with the rainfall-runoff regression, the coefficient of determination and the NSE test using benchmark runoff data based on 1982 land use conditions. The results of the analysis indicate that the changing of land use types from natural surfaces to impervious surfaces has a significant impact on surface runoff. Additionally, remarkable spatial variations of the land use changes and their impact on the runoff in 1996 and 2012 were more detected in the Cinar watershed compared with the Kadiyakuplu watershed. The planning decision on land use of the watersheds, has vital role in these differences. The results of this research also reveal that change to intensive land use in urban watersheds has a significantly larger impact on runoff generation than those rainfall. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.