Measuring the Value of Stormwater Infrastructure
Because the western Lake Erie basin has experienced significant harmful algal blooms over the last several years, federal funds have come to the region to support the design and installation of various stormwater management projects. (See the previous story “Stormwater Research Funded.”) These projects include rain gardens, wetlands, permeable pavement, and biofiltration systems that are designed to capture suspended solids and nutrients that can lead to excess algae growth. Because these strategies are relatively new to Lucas County and because there have not been very many built, there is a shortage of local data on their cost and effectiveness. The University of Michigan Water Center has now awarded a two-year grant to the University of Toledo to monitor performance and assess these projects. TMACOG has a subcontract on that grant to help with project coordination.
The project team will measure the amount and rate of flow and water quality both into and out of the new “green” stormwater infrastructure. Measurements will vary depending on the type of structure and access to it. Data will be collected either through installation of online water quality sensors, through samples collected on site, or perhaps by modeling baseline conditions. The data collected will include water quality indicators such as total suspended solids, nutrients, bacteria, and metals.
“The lack of data has been a barrier for local agencies,” said TMACOG Stormwater Planner Kari Gerwin. “Studies show that phosphorus and other nutrients make algal blooms worse, and we know that stormwater infrastructure can capture and treat nutrients. Hard data will help us make more informed decisions about new installations.” The grant will address stormwater projects funded by Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Surface Water Improvement Fund (SWIF). Quarterly project team meetings will be part of regularly scheduled meetings of the Stormwater Action Group (SWAG) facilitated by TMACOG.