Drew’s Blog

The Stormwater Taskforce is the key student group on grounds striving to improve stormwater management. We are a group of ten students and two staff members: from undergraduate to graduate students, from arts and sciences to engineering. Our central goals are to act as a leader in developing and implementing stormwater best management practices (BMP’s) and to increase education and awareness of stormwater issues and management. The taskforce is in its third year of existence. For our first two years, we primarily worked on developing our goals as a working group and brainstorming potential pilot projects where the taskforce could have measureable impact on improving stormwater management on ground. This past semester, the taskforce began to put all our preparation into action! This blog post hopes to summarize all the work that’s been accomplished.

1)    Dawson’s Row

After identifying the Dawson’s Row area as a location on grounds with high potential and need for improved stormwater management, student members of the taskforce wrote a memo to University staff describing the situation. The memo was well-received, and staff in the architect’s office began to consider a site redesign for Dawson’s Row in part because of the memo. As luck would have it, the construction and renovation project at New Cabell Hall has provided an opportunity to work on Dawson’s Row within the constraints of an ongoing project. Siteworks LLC, a local landscape architectures studio, has already begun planning the new design of Dawson’s Row with stormwater management a key priority. Students on the taskforce have attended design meetings and continue to monitor progress on this project. Ideas that have been discussed in these meetings include permeable pavement, biofilters, and more vegetation.

2)    Clark Hall/Ainsley’s Nook

In a similar sequence of events, the empty space on the east side of Clark Hall is now being redesigned to not only more adequately address stormwater management, but to also increase the usefulness of this small space. For this space, which we nicknamed Ainsley’s Nook for the student who took the lead on the project, the landscape architecture company Dewberry has already completed preliminary surveys and planning. As of this writing, all signs point to the reconstruction of Ainsley’s Nook to move forward within the year! Students on the taskforce will be able to sit in on planning meetings and observe construction.

3)    Carr’s Hill Field stream bank restoration

In the Spring of 2013, a portion of Meadow Creek was daylighted next to Carr’s Hill Field. To help ensure optimum health of this stream, the taskforce helped plant over 1,000 grass plugs to begin the process of building a vegetative buffer. This effort is a part of the near 3,000 individual plants that will be added to the stream bank. The primary purposes of vegetative buffer zones are to a) reduce runoff by increasing stormwater infiltration into soil; b) stabilize soils with plant root systems; and c) purify water with aquatic vegetation. We all really enjoyed getting our hands dirty!

4)    Downspout disconnects

This past Fall, three students from the taskforce took on the huge mission of documenting all downspouts across grounds. A downspout is a vertical pipe used to drain rainwater from a roof. They are usually directed onto a paved surface such as a driveway or directly in the storm drain system. When a downspout is ‘disconnected’ the downspout and gutters remain in place. The only difference is at the base. The downspout is cut and an additional piece of pipe is attached to the remaining length of downspout.  This new length of pipe carries the water a safe distance from the house where it can seep into the ground. Disconnecting downspouts helps to decrease the amount of polluted runoff that enters our streams and limit stream erosion. This project requires our students to walk around every building and mark on maps where any downspout is visible. Once the surveying is completed, the data will be incorporated into a GIS file and included in the University’s building management database. Though not all downspouts will be disconnected, documenting the locations of possible sites is the first major step in the process. Many cities across the country, including Chicago, Seattle, and Baltimore, have downspout disconnect programs that provide incentives and help for residents in this process.

5)    Outreach, Education, and Awareness

Our major project moving forward is to increase our outreach on grounds. This website is an early endeavor for that cause. We hope to not only increase awareness of stormwater issues, but also provide opportunities for students to get involved in improving not only the university’s stormwater management, but their personal stormwater impact as well. We plan on having representatives at the Sustainability Week and World Water Day events on grounds. We hope to have stream clean-ups for students to get their hands dirty cleaning up our local water resources. We also hope to increase signage around grounds to promote BMP’s and stormwater issues. Basically, there’s a long list of ideas we have, and this upcoming semester we hope to implement as many of them as possible!

So as you can see, it’s been a busy semester for the taskforce, but we believe this is only the beginning of our mission. As the leader of the taskforce, I cannot be more proud of the hard work and dedication of my fellow members. Keep following for more information on stormwater management and our work at the University!

-Drew Robison

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