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University Studies Stormwater Systems Amid Climate Change

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

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According to associate professor Lisa Reyes Mason, from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work, drains, pipes and other stormwater infrastructure is to be a critical defense against extreme rainfall and storms experienced in a changing climate.

However, the American Society of Civil Engineers recently gave the nation’s water sector, which includes existing stormwater infrastructure, a D+ in its most recent Infrastructure Report Card.

“The U.S. has a failing stormwater infrastructure system,” Reyes Mason said, noting on the report. “You have these changing precipitation patterns and you have urbanization, as we see here in Denver, with continued development and continued paving over of land. These trends of urban development are taking away green space that would historically soak up some of the rain.”

University of Denver

According to associate professor Lisa Reyes Mason, from the University of Denver’s Graduate School of Social Work, drains, pipes and other stormwater infrastructure is to be a critical defense against extreme rainfall and storms experienced in a changing climate.

In attempt to improve the water systems without replacing existing infrastructure or building new systems, the University of Denver reports that Reyes Mason has partnered with a cross-disciplinary team of researchers to develop a smart stormwater system. The partnership is funded through grants from both the National Science Foundation and the University of Tennessee.

Through their combined efforts, Reyes Mason, alongside civil engineers and urban planners, intends to incorporate sensors to monitor how much water is flowing through the infrastructure and, by communicating with valves and gates, divert water from areas prone to flooding.

The university adds that through Reyes Mason’s “social worker’s voice,” the project aims to also focus on equity and injustice, specifically Reyes Mason said, “who’s being impacted the most, who’s not included, whose voice isn’t at the table.”

To define those affected and how a smart stormwater system might impact local communities, Reyes Mason interviewed residents in South Bend, Indiana; Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Knoxville, Tennessee.

“I think this is a fit with DU and GSSW’s values, moving toward the impact of the work,” she says. “It’s one thing to publish it in a journal ... but what happens after that or even before that? Publishing has its own impact, but what can have more of a public impact?”

Through her participation in the project and in her position at DU, Reyes Mason reports she is most looking forward to continuing collaborative work with real-world implications.

Green Infrastructure, Wastewater Issues

Last year, Mayor Byron W. Brown, of Buffalo, New York, announced during his 14th State of the City address that the city would be launching a $30 million Environmental Impact Bond, allowing the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Sewer Authority to capitalize on the Rain Check Buffalo program.

The EIB is reported to help define novel approaches to pay for high-impact projects based in part on the environmental, social and/or economic outcomes they generate. According to the city’s website, the endeavor will be the first time a city used the EIB to capitalize on a green infrastructure incentive program which targets the deployment of green infrastructure on private properties with large amounts of impervious surfaces.

In using the program to its advantage, the Buffalo Sewer Authority intends to implement green infrastructure to manage over 500 acres of impervious surface area to help eliminate the effects of combined sewer overflows in the city’s waterways.

Moving forward, Quantified Ventures intends to build on its previous success in constructing green infrastructure EIBs in other cities as well. Already the organization has aided Washington, D.C., with cost-effectiveness of green verses grey infrastructure and Atlanta with mitigation, access to greenspace and workforce development opportunities.

On the repair side of things, in 2019, the United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy announced $8.9 million in funding toward a project to develop micro-robots that can be used to inspect and repair pipes.

A team of researchers from four U.K. universities were slated to collaborate over a five-year period to create roughly 1-centimeter-long robots that would be able to move through pipes used for water, gas and sewage. Research is being led by Kirill Horoshenkov at the University of Sheffield.

According to The Telegraph, there will be two versions of the robots. To date, the government has invested $25.6 million in similar, adjacent projects.

In 2018, researchers based out of the University of New South Wales, Sydney, working in collaboration with Sewer Venting and Crane Hire Services, investigated the potential of graphene oxide that could control moisture in Australian sewer systems.

At the time, work on the experiments was being led by the graphene team of UNSW’s School of Materials Science and Engineering. The graphene oxide material was developed by a team led by Rakesh Joshi.

According to the researchers, the ability to manipulate the spaces between the layers of graphene oxide allows for the development of customized desiccants that can control moisture across a variety of applications. The new desiccant can also shed moisture at low temperatures, allowing for easy reuse.

Duncan Reynolds, Research and Development Manager for SVSR, noted that the goal of the research was to develop Australian-made materials that could be retrofitted to existing wastewater infrastructure in New South Wales.


Tagged categories: Colleges and Universities; Green Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Quality Control; Research; Research and development; Stormwater; Water/Wastewater

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