green infrastructure

CLEAR Keeping Track of Stormwater on UConn Campus

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Oak Hall bioretention. Photo: Mike Dietz

Although UConn is in the midst of a pastoral setting in the quiet corner of northeast Connecticut, we sometimes have problems like a big city. This is because the buildings, roads, parking lots and sidewalks that make up the core of campus do not allow water to pass through into the ground. Instead, rainfall is directed into storm drains, and ends up heading towards either the Fenton River to the east, or Eagleville Brook to the west. All of the excess stormwater and pollutants that get picked up along the way cause problems with the aquatic life in these rivers. The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has identified Eagleville Brook as impaired. UConn Extension’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR) has been involved in efforts to reduce the impacts of all of these impervious surfaces on Eagleville Brook. Green infrastructure practices like bioretention, green roofs, and pervious pavements have been installed around campus to help restore a more “natural” hydrologic balance. A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) has been established for the brook, with impervious cover as the “pollutant” (read more about this project at http://clear.uconn.edu/projects/tmdl). An interactive map tour with photos and videos is available online here.

With all of the changes taking place on campus, keeping track of the actual impacts of the green infrastructure implementation is not an easy task. Traditional water monitoring could be done, but this is very expensive and time consuming. Recently, UConn Extension Educator Michael Dietz at CLEAR created a unique system to estimate the benefits of the green infrastructure on campus. This tracking system uses real precipitation data from UConn, and estimates the amount of stormwater treated by each practice installed, given how big the practice is, when it was installed, and the condition of the practice. This allows for a running total of the volume of stormwater treated. Through June 2014, more than 42 MILLION gallons of stormwater have been treated! To put this in perspective, this is enough to fill more than 63 Olympic sized swimming pools!

This information is being used to track progress on the TMDL, along with other regulatory obligations between UConn and DEEP. Dietz plans to continue this tracking, along with other monitoring he and Jack Clausen perform on Eagleville Brook (real-time data available here).

Touring UConn’s Green Infrastructure – From Your Desk!

Anyone who has been to the UConn campus in the last few years has likely noticed a lot of changes. Beautiful new and renovated buildings are remaking the campus. Along with those changes are a lot of more subtle changes that you might not notice – namely the integration of green infrastructure.

As discussed in previous posts, green infrastructure refers to using nature and natural processes to deal with infrastructure issues like stormwater. It includes such practices as bioretention/rain gardens, pervious pavements, and green roofs (among others). UConn has become a statewide and national leader in implementing these practices.

To highlight some of UConn’s efforts and demonstrate how to integrate these practices into an urbanized/urbanizing community, we created a virtual campus tour using Esri’s Story Maps tool in AcrGIS Online. (Story maps, by the way, are an extremely slick and easy way to bring your data or information to life in a geographic context. Definitely worth checking out.)

Take the tour by clicking on the image below:

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LID versus Green Infrastructure

If you deal with stormwater issues or land use planning, chances are you have heard the phrase “green infrastructure” mentioned a lot recently. It is rapidly replacing “Low Impact Development” (LID) as the phrase du jour in the stormwater biz. But before we all go willingly adopting this into our lexicon, we must first ask some pertinent questions.

1. What does green infrastructure mean?

If you Google (or Bing, if that’s how you roll) the phrase “green infrastructure” you will discover two related, but slightly different, definitions. Originally the term was used in land conservation circles to describe a planned and managed network of natural resources (forests, open space, waterways, etc.) in a community or watershed. The idea was that we can maximize the environmental benefits these areas provide to our communities by strategically planning where they are and how they can connect. This is very similar to what we have often referred to here at CLEAR as Open Space Planning.

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More recently, the term has been adopted by the water quality world to refer to approaches that divert stormwater (i.e., rain/snowmelt) into natural areas, rather than directly into storm sewers (a.k.a. “grey infrastructure”). In doing so, you reduce the quantity impacts of stormwater (flooding, CSOs, etc.), as well as the quality impacts by removing pollutants through natural processes/filtering. Green infrastructure in this context includes utilizing rain gardens/bioretention, rain barrels/cisterns, green roofs, permeable pavements, bioswales, land conservation, urban trees and more.

Read more…