UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — At a time when many municipalities are struggling to deal with the increasing intensity of rainstorms, a new study suggests that past stormwater management efforts may not have had much of an impact.
The results of the research are especially eye-opening because with a changing climate triggering more frequent and severe storms in some regions such as the U.S. Northeast, urban stormwater management is more important than ever, noted research team member Jonathan Duncan, assistant professor of hydrology, College of Agricultural Sciences, Penn State.
“No one wants to hear this, but we have a high level of confidence in our data and experimental design that reduced variability across sub-watersheds we studied,” he said. “A few other studies have suggested this, but they were not conducted with the detailed watershed-scale hydrology data we had. The bottom line is that we were not able to detect any difference in flows created by stormwater management.”
The research was unique because it was conducted in the Dead Run watershed in Maryland's Baltimore County, “the most intensely gauged urban watershed in the world,” according to Duncan.
As a result, the researchers were able to examine two decades worth of ecological data related to stormwater flows. “There are five gauging stations within a six-square-mile watershed — other cities are lucky if they've got a few — and there are six just within this one sub-watershed in Baltimore,” Duncan said. “So, it's allowed for a better mechanistic understanding of urban hydrology.”