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student projects

Using rain gardens to mitigate the harmful effects of land-use changes


Masters project derek schlea, Food, agricultural and Biological engineering jay Martin, Food, agricultural and Biological engineering, advisor
derek schlea

Land-use changes that alter natural water flow regimes can have harmful consequences for riverine systems. Residential, commercial, and industrial developments transform the landscape by converting surfaces into impervious rooftops, driveways, roads, and parking lots. The result is an increase in the volume of stormwater runoff, higher peak flows, and a shorter time to peak flow after storm events. This can cause flooding, erosion, and higher pollutant loading in streams, rivers, lakes, and estuaries. Rain gardens planted depressions that absorb rainwater runoff from impervious urban areas represent a sustainable and economic method for decreasing the volume of water that flows into rivers and streams during storm events. For developments that were built without permanent stormwater controls, rain gardens may be helpful solutions compared to centralized and more costly alternatives. However, there is a lack of knowledge about the behavior and performance of rain gardens in these urban redesign scenarios. This project examined the hydrologic performance of terraced, street-side rain gardens installed in an existing development by monitoring inflow and outflow volumes and water tables during storm events and simulated experiments. Researchers addressed relationships between inflow volume and hydrologic performance, and analyzed the behavior of the internal water storage zone and the implications this may have on rain garden design. The research team estimated rain garden performance during simulated storm events using variables such as runoff volume reduction, peak flow reduction, and peak delay. The rain garden terracing design was effective at facilitating stormwater entry into the gardens, despite

limited space availability. For eight simulated storm event experiments, the street-side rain gardens reduced inflow volume by 37 percent. Relationships between rainfall depth and volume reduction were described for rain gardens of different surface area to drainage area ratios. From these relationships it was conservatively predicted that the rain gardens retained the entire runoff volume for 26 percent of the natural storm events monitored. The results of this study proved that rain gardens can benefit existing developments by reducing runoff volume and peak flow, and provide a dynamic internal water storage zone with the potential to improve water quality. The projects findings also show the importance of understanding interactions with the existing soil, drainage system, and the entire drainage area when designing urban rain gardens. Future studies should be conducted on street-side rain gardens to test hydrologic performance for different soil moisture conditions and to evaluate water quality performance. Economic analyses of rain gardens in urban redesign scenarios should be continuously performed to consider unique design and construction features.

Rain gardens planted depressions that absorb rainwater runoff from impervious urban areas represent a sustainable and economic method for decreasing the volume of water that flows into rivers and streams during storm events.

www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/seeds SEEDS: The OARDC Research Enhancement Competitive Grants Program

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