Question Of The Week: Designing For Stormwater Management

The EPA has chosen the winners of its 2017 Campus Rainworks Challenge. What stormwater management strategies have you implemented to reduce runoff from your facility sites?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of its sixth annual EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge, a national collegiate competition that engages the next generation of environmental professionals to design innovative solutions for stormwater pollution. “Today’s students are tomorrow’s innovators,” said EPA Office of Water Assistant Administrator David Ross. “Through EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge, we are harnessing the creativity and enthusiasm of college students to solve local stormwater problems and better protect the environment.”

The Campus RainWorks Challenge asks students and faculty members at colleges and universities across the country to apply green infrastructure design principles, foster interdisciplinary collaboration, and increase the use of green infrastructure on the nation’s college campuses.

stormwaterEPA invited student teams to compete in two design categories: the Master Plan category, which examines how green infrastructure can be broadly integrated across campus; and, the Demonstration Project category, which focuses on how green infrastructure can address stormwater pollution at a specific site on campus. With the help of a faculty advisor, teams of students focused their expertise, creativity, and energy on the challenges of stormwater management and showcased the environmental, economic, and social benefits of green infrastructure.

First place teams will receive a $2,000 student prize to be split among team members and a $3,000 faculty prize to support green infrastructure research and education. Second place teams will receive a $1,000 student prize and a $2,000 faculty prize.

Campus RainWorks Challenge Winners

University of California-Berkeley (1st Place Master Plan Category): Titled “(Re)Generations,” this project exemplifies long-term commitment and vision in stormwater management. Strawberry Creek is a local water body and defining feature of the Berkeley campus. Using this water body as a connective thread, the team’s design strategically phases green infrastructure across the campus, capturing 100% of the university’s stormwater runoff by 2100, and restoring water quality to the Strawberry Creek watershed. Watch the team’s video about their project.

“The Campus RainWorks Challenge represents an opportunity for students to imagine — and potentially help build — a smarter, more vibrant and sustainable future for their local communities,” said University of California, Berkeley team lead, Nate Kauffman. “What’s compelling about the Campus RainWorks Challenge is that the issues and opportunities on campus are so evident and familiar to students, who spend more waking hours on their respective campuses than anywhere else. Their knowledge, investment, and commitment to positive change therein is a crucial but too-often overlooked resource that campuses everywhere should seize on and take advantage of.”

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (1st Place Demonstration Project Category): The team’s project “Campus Hydro Redesigned” integrates a variety of green infrastructure practices into a campus parking lot, reducing impervious area, and completely mitigating the stormwater runoff from remaining impervious surfaces. Using descriptive signage and native vegetation, the team’s design also seeks to add ecological, social, and aesthetic value to the site, converting parking space into a multi-functional campus amenity. Watch the team’s video about their project.

“This challenge resulted in students from many colleges and disciplines across campus collaborating to address a stormwater issue on campus using sustainable, green stormwater infrastructure concepts,” said University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Research Assistant Professor Art Schmidt.

University of Maryland, College Park (2nd Place Master Plan Category): The “Champion Gateway” project integrates multiple green infrastructure practices into a campus entryway and pedestrian corridor adjacent to the proposed Purple Line, a light rail system that will connect Metro service lines and bring increased foot traffic to the University. The team’s design decreases impervious surface by over 70% and increases tree canopy by planting over 350 new trees. The redesigned site provides environmental and aesthetic value to the College Park campus, and highlights the wisdom of aligning transportation and water infrastructure planning. Watch the team’s video about their project.

“The competition provides a wonderful learning opportunity for students from a variety of different programs to come together improve and enhance the management of stormwater on the university campus,” said University of Maryland Professor and Campus RainWorks Challenge Faculty Advisor, Victoria Chanse. “This competition encouraged critical conversations among stakeholder groups as part of this process for the university to envision what sustainable stormwater management looks like in the face of large-scale campus development.”

University of New Mexico (2nd Place Demonstration Project Category): With their project “Johnson Field (Re)Creation” this team proposes to transform an athletic field to better manage stormwater runoff, reduce local flooding, and improve water efficiency on site. By recessing the playing field two inches and encircling the field with a network of rain gardens and new tree plantings, the design would result in the annual capture of over 1 million gallons of stormwater. Watch the team’s video about their project.

“The interdisciplinary team was so excited to bring issues of stormwater to the forefront of campus design,” said University of New Mexico Professor and Campus RainWorks Challenge Faculty Advisor Kathleen Kambic. “This project gave us the opportunity to push against the standards and come up with a solution that is both functional and inviting.”

The University of Arizona (Honorable Mention, Demonstration Project and Master Plan categories): “Following green infrastructure design principles, both honorable mention entries aim to transform previously sterile, flood-prone, or underutilized campus sites into multifunctional spaces that benefit the campus and engage students, faculty and staff in meaningful ways,” said University of Arizona Professor and Campus RainWorks Challenge Faculty Advisor Bo Yang.

EPA plans to announce the seventh annual Campus RainWorks Challenge in Summer 2018. Since 2012, nearly 600 teams have participated in the Challenge. Cooperating organizations assisting with judging and outreach are American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), and the Water Environment Federation.

As EPA notes, green infrastructure tools and techniques for stormwater management include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, habitat conservation, rain gardens, and rain harvesting systems. Using these tools decreases pollution to local waterways by treating rain where it falls and keeping polluted stormwater from entering sewer systems. Communities are increasingly using innovative green infrastructure to supplement “gray” infrastructure such as pipes, filters, and ponds. Green infrastructure reduces water pollution while increasing economic activity and neighborhood revitalization, job creation, energy savings, and open space.

What stormwater challenges do you face at your facilities’ sites? Have you implemented design or operational changes to reduce the negative impacts of stormwater runoff from your facilities? Share your thoughts, experiences, or questions in the Comments section below.