Reducing UC Berkeley’s Environmental Impact through Stormwater Management

Reducing UC Berkeley’s Environmental Impact through Stormwater Management

Project Leads: Cody Lambrecht and Eric Wayman

TGIF Grant: $35,211.14

Project Theme: Habitat Restoration and Native Landscaping

2019 Application

Project Description: Designed to address lacking stormwater infrastructure and the pollution of Strawberry Creek during rain events, this project implements a stormwater infiltration basin on the north side of the A&E parking lot (directly east of Sather Gate) to reduce the volume of stormwater and pollutants entering Strawberry Creek. Throughout campus, impervious and semi-impervious surfaces such as sidewalks, parking lots, lawn fragments, and plazas accumulate harmful pollutants such as heavy metals, fertilizers, oil, gasoline, trash, and plastic particulates. During rain events, many of these pollutants get swept up by water moving in sheet flow over impervious surfaces. Most existing stormwater infrastructure directs the water and pollutants directly into Strawberry Creek, degrading the health of the aquatic ecosystem and contributing to streambank erosion. This project employs the use of a slot drain system to divert that polluted stormwater into a constructed biophysical treatment system to reduce, detain, filter, and slowly re-release filtered stormwater into Strawberry Creek.

Goals: 1) reduce the amount of pollutants that UC Berkeley is responsible for emitting into the creek. This will be accomplished with the construction of an infiltration basin that uses physical and biological processes to filter pollutants and reduce the volume of stormwater entering Strawberry Creek. Natural biophysical methods of treatment include microbial breakdown and transformation of pollutants, adsorption of heavy metals onto plant and soil biofilms, chemical precipitation, uptake of excess nutrients and pollutants via plants, and physical soil filtration. Methods of reducing stormwater volume include increasing plant uptake and transpiration, improving infiltration and percolation with engineered soil, and physically structuring the system to allow for storage of water during heavy rain events. These processes will effectively reduce peak overland flows, enhance percolation rates and reduce erosion, and provide filtration and treatment of pollutants. The plants selected for this system are drought and flood-adapted California native species that improve ecological diversity, create wildlife habitat, and increase the aesthetic value of the space.

2) utilize the stormwater infrastructure as an educational tool to illustrate the functionality and potential of natural treatment systems to reduce UC Berkeley’s environmental impact. Located directly adjacent to Sather Gate and Sproul Plaza, the site is in a high-traffic and highly visible area, creating the opportunity engage with and educate students, faculty, and campus visitors on importance of low-impact development (LID). The goal is for the site to serve as an example of LID and ecological restoration to be studied by students in landscape architecture, environmental engineering, environmental science, conservation and resource studies, as well as by all members of the UC Berkeley campus and broader community.