Final Report: Watershed Management at the Basin Scale at Duke University

EPA Grant Number: SU834714
Title: Watershed Management at the Basin Scale at Duke University
Investigators: Schaad, David , Deshusses, Marc , Medina, Miguel A. , Li, Ming Jiu , Chung, Hyun Koo , Strickland, Matthew Robert , Kim, Hye Yeon , Pollak, Adam , Skabardonis, Alexander , Nicoletti, Alexandra , Casanova, Andrea , Jones, Andrew , Norwood, Andrew , Wood, Andrew , Luong, Angie , Mesler, Annelise , Thomson, Ashley , Patel, Avni , Au, Brian , McCall, Chuck , Gunsch, Claudia , Moss, Daniel , Liao, Edward , Huang, Ellen , Durham, Emily , Mlyn, Eric , Convery, Erin , Cambareri, Grace , Mackebee, Greer , Osserman, Harris , Hsu-Kim, Helen , Cavanaugh, Hilary , Walker, Hillary , Peterson, Inga , Caldwell, James , Dolan, James , Royston, Jay , Chang, Jeff , Lehigh, Jessica , Halley, Jim , Kassof, Jordan , Walton, Judson , Kailimai, Keoni , Kuroglu, Kerem , Yates, Kevin , Frederickson, Kristin , Schlimme, Kurt , Shwisberg, Lauren , Hou, Liang , Cobb, Liz , Morgan, Lyndsey , Kelleher, Magdalena , Leonhardt, Marianne , Wander, Matt , Arias, Megan , Bernert, Michael , Sullivan, Mike , Sohn, Nari , Mbewe, Phyllis , Veerman, Richard , Taggart, Ross , Moyer, Stephen , Palumbo, Steve , Schooley, Tammy , Lee, Tiffany , Rapp, Travis , Lowe, Trisha , Rohr, Tyler , Beckman, Will , Hollander, Zach
Institution: Duke University , East Carteret High School , EcoEngineering
EPA Project Officer: Page, Angela
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2010 through August 14, 2011
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Water , P3 Awards , Sustainability


In order to effectively address the issues of surface water quality, especially in relation to urbanization, storm water management and ecological degradation of streams, this project fostered the creation of an environmental learning laboratory that had two distinct goals. The first was to examine the optimum “scale” to deploy storm water best management practices (BMPs), implement low impact development (LID) strategies, and manage storm water quality and quantity. The second goal was to equip and engage students in not only studying about water quality, but give them a chance to partner with a local engineering firm (EcoEngineering) during the design phase and then implement their designs in cooperation with community partners (Eno River Association and Carteret County Schools).

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

Goal #1 - examine the optimum “scale” to deploy storm water best management practices (BMPs), implement low impact development (LID) strategies, and manage storm water quality and quantity. As part of multiple curricular offerings, students examined the University watershed(s) and addressed issues related to nutrient loadings, water quality management, volume attenuation, and ecosystem function. They also had the opportunity to work with practicing engineers from EcoEngineering, Duke University’s Facilities Management Department, and local community partners to identify and address the issue of basinwide watershed management and identify high value locations/projects to attenuate storm flows, reduce nutrient loads, and enhance the water quality of urban surface streams.

Duke University, like many around the country, continues to expand its building stock to deal with research and teaching needs. However, since the university is considered one “property,” it has the ability to more strategically manage the surface water features on campus. As part of synergistic research and facilities management needs of the university, students, researchers, external environmental consultants, and the facilities management department have examined where and how stormwater should be managed on campus. As part of that strategy Duke has developed two large stormwater impoundments to manage the flow rate and volume off the campus, and as part of this P3 project, is examining other areas to address and improve stormwater on campus.

As reported in Richardson, et al. (2010), aggregating the treatment in a coordinated way as part of the Stream and Wetland Assessment Management Park (SWAMP) dramatically decreased the nutrient and sediment loads in the water leaving campus. Prior to restoration activities and the development of the SWAMP, the water exiting campus through this confluence had concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in excess of EPA recommendations for streams in this region. After construction activities, the concentrations of nutrients generally decreased. In fact, an evaluation of the hydrologic and nutrient budget based on mass loading indicated that substantial attenuation of nutrients was occurring within SWAMP project. Most notably, (NO2 − +NO3 −)–N loads were reduced by 64% and total phosphorus loads were reduced by 28%. Additionally, sediment retention in the restored wetlands and stormwater reservoir totaled nearly 500 metric tons per year.

By managing the stormwater flows at the basin level, Duke University has leveraged economies of scale to enhance water quality, attenuate storm flows, and reduce nutrient loading. These levels have all been reached by centralizing management strategies which reduces costs and alleviates a patchwork of stormwater impoundments spread across the campus. As the innovation target for the P3 competition, the research team has demonstrated how basin wide management at the watershed scale can be accomplished, and this can serve as a model which can be replicated at other institutions across the country.

Goal #2 - equip and engage students in not only studying about water quality, but give them a chance to partner with a local engineering firm (EcoEngineering) during the design phase and then implement their designs in cooperation with community partners (Eno River Association and Carteret County Schools). Not only have the student teams evaluated the basin-wide strategy at the University, but by teaming with community partners, the students have designed water quality enhancement projects which will be constructed within the larger basin. These project sites have been selected to sustain active learning, education, and evaluation. As a long-term initiative, by cooperating with long term partners (the Eno River Association and Carteret County Schools) the plan is to develop projects which can then become test areas for various student-designed stormwater BMPs and restoration strategies. The project sites themselves will become demonstration areas for students, faculty, and experts from the field to gain true analytical insight into what works and what falls short in basin-wide hydrological and ecological restoration. As part of a summer experience sponsored by DukeEngage, students will construct their fabricated designs in collaboration with a community partner, further enhancing their learning as well as achieving water quality improvement objectives.


The innovation within our project proposal is in its easy scalability and wide applicability to any watershed site or university campus nationwide. Though stream restoration and stormwater management address issues with a cottage industry of mitigation techniques, there is no sustained evaluation or assessment currently occurring that evaluates the various solutions implemented on a professional level. Additionally, stream restoration requires a wide variety of interdisciplinary skills from across the academic spectrum, requiring tools from engineering, environmental science, economics, and public policy. Our project resolves the urgent need to provide detailed, longitudinal scientific evaluations around restoring streams’ ecological function and watersheds’ hydrology while deeply involving a diverse cross-section of participants through interactive, pedagogical educational classes and projects. This precedent set by Duke University could be adapted by other institutions immensely increasing the educational audience of the design project. The many departments, knowledgeable faculty, motivated students and extensive resources make universities ideal locations for development of student-led basin-wide management schemes. Additionally, our student designed projects, the construction of which are Phase II of this project, have the opportunity to further increase the learning of the students, as well as materially and substantially improving the water quality of the stream ecosystems where they will be constructed.

Throughout this entire project the focus has been on the 3 P’s of the contest and experience has been a cooperative working arrangement to address the issues impacting People, Prosperity and the Planet. The project should serve as a model to be employed elsewhere and basin-wide watershed management has been demonstrated to be a cost effective tool for efficiently managing the water quality on the campus. Since water is a critical link in the resource chain for continuing survival on the planet, it is significantly linked to the issue of sustainability and this project has kept that central in the thought process and research objective of the entire team. By serving as a model for management, this technique and method can easily be replicated elsewhere at other institutions. By leveraging the collaborative efforts of the research team, the students, the facilities management department, external environmental consultants (EcoEngineering), and community partners (the Eno River Association and Carteret County High Schools), this project is a model for collaborative interaction for a sustainable stormwater management system which will enhance the quality of life for Central and Eastern North Carolina.

Supplemental Keywords:

stream restoration, storm water management, nutrient uptake, watershed management, climate change, sustainable development

P3 Phase II:

Watershed Management at the Basin Scale at Duke University