Non-point source pollution (NPSP) is perhaps the leading cause of water quality problems and one of the most challenging environmental issues given the difficulty of modeling and controlling it. In this article, we applied the Manning equation, a hydraulic concept, to improve models of non-point source pollution and determine its influence as a function of slope - land cover roughness for runoff to reach the stream. In our study the equation is somewhat taken out of its usual context to be applies to the flow of an entire watershed. Here a digital elevation model (DEM) from the SRTM satellite was used to compute the slope and data from the RapidEye satellite constellation was used to produce a land cover map later transformed into a roughness surface. The methodology is applied to a 1433 km2 watershed in Southeast Brazil mostly covered by forest, pasture, urban and wetlands. The model was used to create slope buffer of varying width in which the proportions of land cover and roughness coefficient were obtained. Next we correlated these data, through regression, with four water quality parameters measured in situ: nitrate, phosphorous, faecal coliform and turbidity. We compare our results with the ones obtained by fixed buffer. It was found that slope buffer outperformed fixed buffer with higher coefficients of determination up to 15%.