Ecological Impact of Vegetated Stormwater Systems

EPA Grant Number: F6A10012
Title: Ecological Impact of Vegetated Stormwater Systems
Investigators: Culbertson, Trisha
Institution: Kansas State University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2006 through September 1, 2008
Project Amount: $68,415
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Environmental , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Environmental Justice


This project is based on a vegetated stormwater system designed to control runoff from an adjacent urban development. The system will be planted with switchgrass and other native prairie grasses to enhance infiltration within the system. The performance of the system will be assessed by tracking differences in water quality and quantity at the inlet and outlet. The ecological impact of the stormwater system on the receiving water body will also be studied. The results of the research will help advance the understanding of vegetated stormwater systems and their potential to provide a sustainable means of addressing urban non-point pollution concerns.

The purpose of this research is to assess the impact of a vegetated stormwater system on water quality, quantity, and flow velocity and its effects on surrounding ecological systems.


To assess the effectiveness of this system, the inlet and outlet will be instrumented to measure both water quality and quantity. Differences in these parameters across the inlet and outlet will be used to draw conclusions as to the system’s ability to infiltrate stormwater and filter contaminants. Changes in infiltration will be quantified using a double-ring infiltrometer. An important component of stormwater quantity is its velocity, which will also be measured using a depth-discharge relationship. An assessment of the receiving stream will be conducted to determine its scouring velocity and whether the outlet velocity of the stormwater system is maintained below this threshold for given precipitation events. Other biological indicators, particularly plant health, will also be used to assess the impact of the stormwater system.

Expected Results:

Vegetated stormwater systems will prove to be a more sustainable method of stormwater management than traditional systems. The vegetation in the system is expected to increase the storage capacity of the system by enhancing infiltration while improving water quality through sediment retention and enhanced pollutant degradation. Thus, vegetated stormwater systems are predicted to reduce the overall impact of stormwater flows on receiving water bodies.

Supplemental Keywords:

Stormwater, vegetated stormwater system, sustainable, ecological health, bioretention, urban NPS pollution,, Scientific Discipline, Water, Wastewater, Urban and Regional Planning, biofiltration, runoff, filtration, Urban water management, stormwater, stormwater treatment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • Final