May 22, 2007

Engineering Professor Evaluates Storm Water Management in Colorado Cities

Colorado State University's Urban Water Center has been awarded a contract valued at $800,000 from the Water Environment Research Foundation in a first-of-its-kind study to develop planning tools for municipalities to determine the best way to protect urban waterways from pollution due to storm water runoff.

Municipal storm water management agencies in Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle and Philadelphia have volunteered to participate in the study, which is intended to provide municipalities with effective tools for improving storm water drainage. Storm water can carry harmful pollutants such as automobile products or chemicals.

The study will examine whether best management practices for storm water pollutant control are directly linked to improved water quality in streams, according to Larry Roesner, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Urban Water Center.

"This study will provide the foundation for making better, fact-based decisions on the types of best management practices that local governments use and approve within their jurisdictions," said Ben Urbonas, manager, Master Planning Program for the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District. The district covers 1,608 sq miles and includes Denver, parts of the six surrounding counties and all or parts of 33 incorporated cities and towns.

Commonly used methods for treating runoff include settling and biofiltration that remove solids and associated pollutants from the runoff. Wetlands and created ponds are also used to remove pollutants plus nutrients that stimulate algae growth in urban waterways. The university plans to hire subcontractors, including CDM, CH2MHill and Geosyntec, to provide specialized expertise on the study.
"Some metropolitan storm water agencies have experience with state-of-the-art controls that are used to meet water-quality standards," Roesner said. "Denver and Philadelphia, in particular, are leaders in this area. However, they and most other American municipalities lack the planning tools to determine which controls work best in a given situation, how many are required in a river basin, and what is the whole-life cost to the agency for implementing these controls."

Roesner holds the first endowed chair in the Department of Civil Engineering known as the Harold H. Short endowed chair for urban water infrastructure systems. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1990 and is a nationally recognized expert in the development and application of hydrologic, hydraulic and water quality simulation models. He served as chief technical officer and senior vice president at Camp Dresser and McKee, Inc. before joining Colorado State in 1999.