Watershed-scale impacts of stormwater green infrastructure on hydrology, nutrient fluxes, and combined sewer overflows in the mid-Atlantic region

Michael J. Pennino, Rob I. McDonald, Peter R. Jaffe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Scopus citations

Abstract

Stormwater green infrastructure (SGI), including rain gardens, detention ponds, bioswales, and green roofs, is being implemented in cities across the globe to reduce flooding, combined sewer overflows, and pollutant transport to streams and rivers. Despite the increasing use of urban SGI, few studies have quantified the cumulative effects of multiple SGI projects on hydrology and water quality at the watershed scale. To assess the effects of SGI, Washington, DC, Montgomery County, MD, and Baltimore County, MD, were selected based on the availability of data on SGI, water quality, and stream flow. The cumulative impact of SGI was evaluated over space and time by comparing watersheds with and without SGI, and by assessing how long-term changes in SGI impact hydrologic and water quality metrics over time. Most Mid-Atlantic municipalities have a goal of achieving 10–20% of the landscape drain runoff through SGI by 2030. Of these areas, Washington, DC currently has the greatest amount of SGI (12.7% of the landscape drained through SGI), while Baltimore County has the lowest (7.9%). When controlling for watersheds size and percent impervious surface cover, watersheds with greater amounts of SGI have less flashy hydrology, with 44% lower peak runoff, 26% less frequent runoff events, and 26% less variable runoff. Watersheds with more SGI also show 44% less NO3 and 48% less total nitrogen exports compared to watersheds with minimal SGI. There was no significant reduction in phosphorus exports or combined sewer overflows in watersheds with greater SGI. When comparing individual watersheds over time, increases in SGI corresponded to non-significant reductions in hydrologic flashiness compared to watersheds with no change in SGI. While the implementation of SGI is somewhat in its infancy in some regions, cities are beginning to have a scale of SGI where there are statistically significant differences in hydrologic patterns and water quality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1044-1053
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume565
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 3 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

Keywords

  • Hydrologic flashiness
  • Nitrogen exports
  • Phosphorus exports
  • Stormwater management
  • Urban
  • Water quality

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