Research Helps Counteract Stormwater Runoff

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COLUMBIA - Researchers at the University of Missouri are studying rain gardens, bio retention ponds and other "best management practices" to see how effective each is at mitigating stormwater runoff.

Dr. Enos Inniss, assistant professor for MU's College of Engineering, said these best management practices, or BMPs, are installed throughout MU's campus to absorb the stormwater runoff caused by urban expansion. BMPs that have vegetation, such as rain gardens, are an effort to make an area closer to its natural environment.

"As soon as you start to put the building and all the pavement down, then the stormwater can't get into the ground so it just runs off and takes stuff with it, and so the effort is to try to put features back in place to allow that water to infiltrate and stay on site as much as possible," Dr. Inniss said.

Unlike its sewage system, Columbia's stormwater is not treated, which is why BMPs are needed to keep pollutants out of creeks and streams.

Another MU researcher said BMPs will become increasingly important in the next few years.

"Recent weather data suggests that the amount of rainfall is increasing per storm event. If you have more rainfall, you're going to have more runoff," said Dr. Robert Reed, associate research professor for MU's College of Engineering.

Increasing stormwater could cause an increase in the pollutants that wind up in watersheds such as Hinkson Creek. Reed said that extra pollution will negatively impact the plants and animals in creeks and streams.

Columbia Public Works said trash and chemicals from fertilizer are major pollutants found in stormwater.

"[Residents] put more fertilizer down than what's recommended on the packaging, and what happens is that just washes down and gets in our creeks and streams," said Erin Keys, engineer for Columbia Public Works.

Keys said residents should only use what is needed and doing so can prevent a lot of that pollution.

"Those are the same waters we use to water our crops, to feed our animals, and for people as well," Keys said.

The city of Columbia is studying the effects of several BMPs at the Grissum and Power Plant properties.