Oct 06, 2008

Researching Bioretention On Campus

Researchers from the University of Maryland, Villanova University and North Carolina State University have joined forces to conduct collaborative storm water “green” infrastructure research, creating the Low Impact Development—Mid-Atlantic Research Consortium (LID-MARC).

The mission statement of LID-MARC is: “Provide research-based recommendations to government, industry and nongovernmental organizations on green storm water management practices, including bioretention and bioinfiltration. Work conducted by the consortium ranges from the fundamental to the applied practical and focuses on a variety of land uses and climate conditions found among the mid-Atlantic states.”

The first major research grant awarded to the LID-MARC partners is entitled Watershed Impact of Stormwater Bioretention and Bioinfiltration Best Management Practices. Funded by the Cooperative Institute for Coastal and Estuarine Environmental Technology (CICEET), the research focuses on making science-based recommendations for the design and performance of LID bioretention and bioinfiltration best management practices (BMPs) to understand and optimize their use as a storm water control measure at the watershed scale. The research team integrates diverse expertise and experience from three established storm water research programs with differing climatic and soil conditions in the mid-Atlantic coastal zone.

A New Breed of BMP

Bioretention BMPs attenuate storm water runoff volume to reduce negative impacts from development and changing land use. These control measures directly address recharge, water quality, increased volume, peak delay and peak flow issues. These control measures are unique in that they are most effective when strategically distributed over the landscape in an LID setting, contrasting to past practices of larger control technologies at the bottom of the watershed.

Nevertheless, a wide range of design issues for these BMPs has slowed implementation and inhibited use. Some of these issues stem from the fact that the bioretention and bioinfiltration concept is a new breed of BMP that integrates knowledge from a number of disciplines. Concerns over performance, groundwater contamination, longevity and over-infiltration have limited their size. Past practices and guidelines were directed at smaller runoff volumes and did not include peak rate reduction or large volumes as performance criteria.

Grant in Action

To address these issues, the investigative team—which includes Allen Davis at the University of Maryland, Rob Traver at Villanova University and Bill Hunt at North Carolina State University—monitors the hydrologic and water quality performance of different bioretention and bioinfiltration BMPs at or near the three universities. Currently, the project coordinators have developed protocols for sharing data. They are in the field-testing stage.

In the next stage, the researchers will evaluate the data across the different sites to develop performance metrics and parameter association. Later stages will move to computer simulations and design recommendations. First results of this work are expected to be presented at the American Society of Civil Engineers World Environmental & Water Congress in spring 2009.

“The combined pressures of climate change and human activity have made the management of our coastal resources increasingly complex and difficult,” said Richard Langan, CICEET’s University of New Hampshire co-director. “This project was selected for its potential to transform research into practical, accessible tools that coastal resource managers need to support their communities and protect the environment.”

About the author

Robert G. Traver, Ph.D., P.E., D.WRE, is professor and director for the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, Villanova University. Traver can be reached at 610.519.7899 or by e-mail at [email protected].