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CAREER: Toward Sustainable Urban Water Management through a Twofold Approach: Enhanced Landscape Modeling and Strategic Spatial Placement of Stormwater Control Measures

Global population in urban areas is burgeoning, and sustainable development and water management are critical to ensuring ecological and human health. As healthy waterways are increasingly valued, and the degradation of these waterways by urban stormwater runoff is better understood, major efforts are underway to restore watershed function across the United States, from the Chesapeake Bay to Lake Tahoe; from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. With these efforts largely relying on coarse runoff models and empirical approaches for green infrastructure implementation, there is a dire need for improved approaches to watershed restoration. The central hypothesis in this CAREER proposal is that impervious areas within urban watersheds differ in their contribution to stormwater generation and transport based on their spatial configuration, thus restoration approaches that target the most impactful impervious areas will result in optimized environmental outcomes. This research proposes an innovative, twofold approach to urban watershed management predicated on improved landscape modeling at the site and watershed scales, and the use of geospatial techniques to target and treat those areas that contribute most to surface water degradation. The nature of the proposed approach integrates sensor technology, geospatial tools, and modeling to inform the design and optimize the placement of green infrastructure in urban systems.

Funding: National Science Foundation

Reimagining Urban Watershed Management: A Systems Approach to Stormwater Control and Ecological Rehabilitation

Static and decentralized replacement of grey stormwater infrastructure with green alternatives (e.g., bioswales, wet ponds) has not provided corrective remedies of USS. This has led to increasing advocacy for operational shifts towards basin-scale coordination of stormwater interventions and conceptual shifts towards viewing urban stormwater management through the lens of environmental flows. Recent advances in sensors and controls now allow stormwater infrastructure to be operated as a “smart” system for managing how and when runoff is discharged into a receiving stream, affording unprecedented opportunities to (re)establish desired flow regimes based on a set of multiple objectives. In this project, the target is to determine and demonstrate how stormwater systems can be tuned to achieve environmental flows as an objective function to meet ecological and regulatory goals.

Funding: National Science Foundation

REU: Green Infrastructure for Sustainable Urban Environments (GI4SUrE)

In this Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site Program, Green Infrastructure for Sustainable Urban Environments (GI4SUrE), a diverse cohort will participate in research supporting the advancement of Green Infrastructure to improve public and ecological health in urban environments. Green Infrastructure can be described as the interconnected natural spaces in urban environments such as parks, riparian areas, and nature-based storm water control measures that serve to clean storm water runoff, reduce urbanization impacts to local surface waters, and offer protection from flooding. Research will include state of the art field, laboratory, and modeling studies to better understand and optimize these systems. Students that participate in this REU will have the chance to improve their research and critical thinking skills while bolstering their ability to communicate with technical and non-technical audiences through oral and written mediums. Additional experiences include access to new mentors, exposure to the various career pathways made possible by a graduate degree in engineering, and training on how to collaborate with, learn from, communicate with, and consider the perspectives of colleagues outside their discipline. This program will serve to improve the diversity of the engineering profession and student participation in graduate school by extending opportunities to traditionally underrepresented groups in science and engineering.

Funding: National Science Foundation

Restoring Floodplain Wetlands Using Regenerative Stormwater Conveyances

In natural systems, stormwater moves to streams and river networks by way of floodplains, wetlands, and riparian forests which offer treatment and runoff detention. As watersheds are urbanized, these natural flow paths are short circuited by storm drains and pipes that bypass these ecosystem services. Regenerative stormwater conveyances (RSCs) are an emerging design solution for urban runoff to decrease flow energy, increase infiltration rates, and remove pollutants. Positioned at the stormwater outfall, RSCs are comprised of an open channel step-pool system lined with vegetation and are sized to fully contain the 100-year storm. Studies that help identify linkages between RSCs and local groundwater systems, and studies that provide scientifically informed design guidance are limited, representing a need in scientific literature. The objectives of this project are to: (1) site, design, and create a floodplain wetland using RSC-style natural system design, (2) through surface and groundwater measurements, establish the quality and abundance of wetlands created by the Enhanced RSC installation, (3) develop much needed design guidance for Enhanced RSCs being used to reconnect urban watersheds to floodplains / recreated wetlands, and a wetland functional tool to assess restoration outcomes, and (4) use a series of workshops and webinars to educate regulators, designers, and other academics about the use of Enhanced RSCs for wetland restoration.

Funding: United States Environmental Protection Agency