Water Quality Improvement Through Community Campus Partnerships

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Bioretention Cell Addresses Stormwater Runoff

This service-learning project addressed urban stormwater issues on the campus of the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Municipalities are increasingly searching for answers to flooding and non-point source pollution issues. A bioretention cell is a shallow basin planted with native grasses, trees, and shrubs. The cells collect storm water and let it soak into the ground over a period of time, allowing some to be used by the plants. The pollutants in the water are removed through plant and soil processes.

The Kansas City metropolitan area has recently launched an initiative to plant 10,000 bioretention cells or rain gardens to mitigate stormwater's negative impact on surface water.

Ken Mulliken, human geography and Melanie Harvey, chemistry professor, engaged their students in the design, implementation and monitoring of two bioretention cells on campus.

Bioretention cells are a best management practice developed to manage stormwater runoff in urban settings. The cells utilize soils and native herbaceous plants to remove pollutants from the first inch of runoff during storm events. The cells increase infiltration and remove harmful contaminants before they reach storm drains. Saint Mary's cell infiltrates approximately 1.2 acres of runoff from multiple parking lots and several roofs.

Collaboration was key in making this project a success. The University partnered with the Leavenworth County Conservation District, City of Leavenworth Water Pollution Control, the Kansas Environmental Leadership Program (KELP), and Leavenworth Recycling Center.

Native plants were selected due to their resilient nature, deep root systems and attractive blooms.

Students plant a buffalo grass buffer around cell perimeter, which can be mowed to provide a manicured look.

An interpretive sign was designed by members of the 2006 Kansas Environmental Leadership Program (KELP) cohort to educate the public and share the many benefits of a bioretention cell.