State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2012DE239B
Title: Water Quality Management in Urban Ecosystems
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 6/01/2012
End Date: 2/28/2013
Congressional District: At large
Focus Categories: Management and Planning, Ecology, Surface Water
Keywords: Urban watersheds, stormwater, landscape design, native plants
Principal Investigators: Barton, Susan; Bruck, Jules
Federal Funds: $ 1,500
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 3,000
Abstract: Water quality management strategies in urban and suburban watersheds have historically focused on intercepting polluted water before it enters waterways rather than preventing its pollution in the first place. The opposite approach, curbing pollution at its source, will improve water quality more effectively while simultaneously delivering additional ecosystem services that have been ignored in urban watersheds. Two aspects of urban watersheds are primary sources of non-point source pollution: impervious surfaces and excessive use of turf grass. A recently funded USDA Water Quality project (Water quality and ecosystem services from landscape best management practices that enhance vegetation in urbanizing watersheds) will measure water quality and ecosystem services in a watershed vegetated primarily with turf-grass and a watershed vegetated primarily with meadow and forest. To understand the value of the differences between traditional and more heavily-vegetated, diverse landscaping, the project will first compare the costs of installing and maintaining lawns, meadows and forest cover and then measure the degree to which alternative landscapes with more vegetation improve water quality, reduce runoff, sequester carbon dioxide, conserve biodiversity, and provide natural pest control and pollination services, ecosystem services with considerable ecological and economic valuable. To encourage a national paradigm shift toward more vegetated landscapes this project includes several demonstration sites including one located at the world-renowned Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Wilmington, Delaware. An existing landscape of primarily cool season turf-grass at Winterthur will be replaced with a landscape that has less lawn, more trees, greater plant diversity and that is designed to retain and filter > 90% of the rainfall. Location of the project at Winterthur, which has ~130,000 visitors each year, ensures that the water quality concepts demonstrated in the project will have a major educational impact.

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