Sustainable Stormwater Coordinator Phase 2

Executive Summary:

The Sustainable Stormwater Coordinator (SSC) position designates a SEFS research aide appointment to spread awareness about and physically improve stormwater treatment on campus. This is accomplished by investigating the current quantity and quality of campus stormwater, analyzing a suite of suitable water management tools, and building a collaborative student-faculty-administration approach to this pressing issue. In sum, continuation of this project seeks concrete and actionable runoff strategies, informed by water quality testing of discharges from parking lots, rooftops and sports fields.

Responsibilities include:

  • Conduct outreach and education to students and faculty about stormwater issues
  • Engage and support students and departments pursuing stormwater related projects, such as rain gardens, bioswales, smart irrigation and water recycling
  • Sample stormwater on campus for oil + grease and metals in order to determine pollution hotspots
  • Support Salmon Safe recertification
  • Identify stormwater rebates or stormwater project funding possibilities

Presently, the SSC has made significant progress in advancing the responsible handling of our fresh water resource at UW as each of the supported projects/endeavors has benefited from assistance with some or all of the following roles/responsibilities: funding identification, program development, design, materials acquisition, water quality testing, documentation, facilitation of permitting, facilitation of contracted consultations, site visits, and facilitation of administrative collaboration for the following projects/endeavors:

  • Development of UW Seattle campus Stormwater Sampling Plan
  • Prairie Rain Garden
  • Kincaid Ravine Hydrology Improvements
  • Kincaid Ravine Memorandum of Agreement (stream and wetland protections)
  • Water Recycling System for Society for Ecological Restoration-UW Hoophouse
  • Development of campus-wide Curb Cut plan
  • UW-Seattle Stormwater Resource Guide
  • Identification of Surface Water Management Rebates and Stormwater Project Funding
  • Salmon Safe (SS) Recertification, SS Student Awareness Campaign and SS certification of UW Farm
  • Sustainable Stormwater resource drive and list serve news updates 

Despite this progress in establishing a baseline of momentum, the importance of continuing the SSC position is urgent. Funding from other sources has not been secured and the potential discontinuation of this position would hamper progress and threaten follow-through on many of the projects listed above. The position has increased visibility and awareness of the CSF by connecting promising student led projects to the CSF. In so doing, a strong network of projects has an aggregate effect of success. These projects are all linked and supportive of one another, leading to a tight knit web of sustainability.

The SSC position is overseen by hydrology Professor Susan Bolton and the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences. It consults with campus Environmental Engineer David Ogrodnik, Engineer James Morin, Landscape Architect Kristine Kenney, Environmental and Land Use Compliance Officer Jan Arntz, and Grounds Manager Howard Nakase.

$9105 is requested to continue the SSC position, water quality testing and analysis, and outreach and education through December 2015.

Student Involvement:

The core student group has identified ‘Continued Accountability’ as a primary objective, and envisioned the student SSC position through SEFS, with department administrator Wendy Star serves as budget administrator. The creation of this position has the written support of HSS, 12,000 Rain Gardens, Puget Soundkeeper, SER-UW, the Kincaid Ravine Restoration team and Salmon Safe. 

The SSC provides a forum for students to develop the skill set and knowledge base to pursue projects related to water use and waste, including exposure to important local organizations and partnership opportunities in the Seattle restoration community. A multi-disciplinary core group of students, which meets in various contexts throughout each academic quarter, provides support to the SSC, including communication and networking, outreach and education, and assistance in water and soil testing.

The role of the SSC in empowering other students to initiate, implement and complete stormwater related projects on campus is vital to student leadership in this field. Between rain gardens, bioswales, water recycling hoop houses and other projects, the SSC has worked closely with six students on varying phases of grant writing, project design, permitting and implementation. The SSC has been in contact with dozens of other students in a more advisory role, providing information, pollution hotspot tours and project idea suggestions.  With funding, this work of empowering students to develop their own projects successfully will continue into 2015-16.

The Project on the Environment Capstone internship program was a unique opportunity for an undergraduate student to spend 15 hours/week working exclusively on Sustainable Stormwater projects. The 2014-2015 intern final deliverable list included a comprehensive document on student stormwater education, outreach and engagment with local Salmon Safe vendors, engagement with the Salmon Safe organization and research into UW stormwater policy. Through the process of accomplishing these deliverables, the intern networked with professional organizations, attended meetings, annotated a bibliography, conducted research, coordinated with faculty, and generally built her skill sets of research, informative writing and outreach. Continuation of this internship program for the 2015-16 year will be a valuable asset to Sustainable Stormwater and will provide an undergraduate student with a dedicated experience to develop professionally.

Student leadership in the Salmon Safe Re-Certification process has been valuable to students, administrators, the Salmon Safe Assessment Team, and surrounding stakeholders. Accomplishments include the development of two documents, "A Student Perspective on Stormwater Education and Outreach at the UW-Seattle", written by Sustainable Stormwater intern Emily Warnock and "Recommendations for Stormwater BMPs and Compliance" written by SSC Matt Schwartz. These are valuable in the Salmon Safe process and have been submitted to key UW administrators and the Green Infrastructure Partnership. Similar endeavors will continue as the SSC continues to work within these avenues.

A new curriculum project is underway (described fully in the Outreach section), in which the SSC will work with undergraduate collaborators in fact finding, fact checking, writing and image production of water use/stormwater related content for this important contribution to the UW environmental curriculum. This is an opportunity to accelerate progressive stormwater education with undergraduate collaborators within the project and once it is complete, in the classroom setting.

Education & Outreach:

Currently, the University of Washington, Seattle, claims five rain gardens, two outside the Molecular Engineering building and the Center for Urban Horticulture, respectively, and one outside the Community Design Center. A bioswale- a drainage way that partially filters stormwater as it is carried from Point A to Point B, is planned by Husky Sustainable Storms outside the Burke Museum. These projects have begun the conversation about responsibly handling our fresh water resource at UW.  However, it is quintessential to unite these efforts under a singular and organized umbrella. This maximizes efficiency, minimizes redundancy in communicating with administration, and ensures ongoing monitoring and maintenance of campus stormwater projects. To this end, the visage of environmental stewardship around campus can be better understood and publicized. 

Furthermore, by channeling student stormwater efforts over the long-term, facilitating communication between students and admin through one informed and capable liaison, and collaborating with off-campus entities, the SSC has helped to establish UW’s leadership in the greater stormwater community. The SSC hosted April's Green Infrastructure Partnership monthly meeting at UW, bringing together interested students with over 30 professionals in the Seattle green infrastructure community. 

Sustainable Stormwater has begun participation in a fantastic educational curriculum project with the oversight of Timothy Billo, Ph.D. Lecturer in the UW Program on the Environment. Sustainable Stormwater will be contributing in all aspects of the curriculum involving text and images relating to urban stormwater, forest hydrology, impacts of climate change on hydrology, glacial history, marine ecology, and current local issues of water pollution and green stormwater infrastructure in the Seattle area. This is an exciting opportunity to introduce undergraduates to cutting edge information about water issues and ecosystem function as it pertains to their local environment. The project involves development of an engaging beginner-intermediate natural history curriculum for use in College of the Environment classrooms. It will have a strong focus on the connection between healthy watersheds and functioning ecosystems. The curriculum will be piloted by ENVIR 280: Natural History of Puget Sound, ENVIR 440: Environmental Pedagogy and potentially other introductory environmental classes once completed.

The curriculum project is one step in the greater strategy of integration of water use and stormwater education into classes at UW. For example, the presentation by the Director of 12,000 Rain Gardens to ESRM 426 this past winter quarter, resulted in several students reaching out to Sustainable Stormwater for more information and one student requested an informational interview. The Director also connected with grad student Malcolm Howard to provide consultation in the construction of his Prairie Rain Garden. These connections provide students with real world networking experiences.

By having this stormwater point person, combined with regular meetings, water projects around campus will continue to unite, heighten impact through symbiosis, and share information and resources.  Opportunities for student involvement are numerous, including assisting with water and soil testing, contributing design ideas, creating outreach materials, attending local lectures and conferences, and using our data and designs for their own classes and/or projects. The SSC will continue to put students in contact with relevant local NGO's and governmental projects, and identify productive networking relationships in the realm of stormwater. 

Moreover, outreach to administrators is also important to instigate change on campus. With parking lot redesigns throughout campus, the SSC channels student voices of water related considerations to the appropriate administrators.

The SSC will also pursue educational signage for the Prairie Rain Garden and SER-UW Water Recycling Hoophouse, to describe hydrology features, as well as recognize project partners like CSF, with a representative logo.

Environmental Impact:
  • Living Systems and Biodiversity
  • Transportation
  • Waste
  • Water
Project Longevity:

By utilizing the Project on the Environment internship program, volunteers, and through general resourcefulness, the SS project came in under budget. This allows previous SSC funding to continue through the end of July (it was envisioned to run out by early June). Funding to carry the position through from August- mid December is requested, which extends the position only one full quarter into the 2015-16 academic year (autumn). Financially, the SSC will continue research into fee-reduction for stormwater treatments (North Seattle Community College saves $60,000+ in annual stormwater fees, the direct result of a campus-wide collaboration where students applied for tax credits through Seattle Public Utilities). Since UW spends ~$1.3 million in annual stormwater fees, economic incentive is clearly justified. Contact with Seattle Public Utilities has been established and conversations with Tasha Bassett, Program Coordinator of the Utility Systems Management Branch have begun. UW has been identified as a candidate for a Stormwater Facility Credit Program, but it will take more time to work through the necessary steps to actualize this process. Once this happens, the financial savings could potentially be used to fund the SSC, but this process needs more time. Furthermore, converting the SSC from a Research Aid position in SEFS into an F2 internship with Facilities has proved elusive at this moment in time. It is a very viable option for transferring the responsibilities of the SSC into a 15 or 20 hour F2 internship, potentially with the Campus Environmental Engineer as supervisor, but has not been guaranteed at this point in time. Updates on this process will be provided to the CSF as soon as they are are available. As far as long term management of specific projects, the SSC has been intentional not to adopt project ownership over any project. Instead the role has been advisory and/or shared ownership, so as not to leave any projects without continued leadership, should the SSC position eventually lose funding.

Environmental Problem:

A total of 27,000 gallons of stormwater are produced as runoff from a one-acre parking lot, after one inch of rain. In UW parking lots, stormwater picks up oil, grease, metals and coolants from vehicles, and it proceeds largely untreated into Lakes Union and Washington. The EPA has listed hydrocarbons, like phenanthrene, as priority pollutants due to carcinogenicity concerns of the compounds; inorganic pollutants are also of concern because of their potential toxic effect on aquatic life, as they affect the pH, alkalinity, and conductivity of the water. Other impervious surfaces, like roofs, compound the quantity of overland runoff and inhibit on-site infiltration.

Typical stormwater systems address water quantity and flooding concerns, but ignore water quality. In recent years, pressing concerns about salmon health and subsequent Southern Resident Killer Whale endangerment have helped propel these issues to the forefront of water management. Moreover, in some cases, stormwater is mixed with sewage and several times a year, continuous rains overwhelm treatment facilities, leading to overflow across Seattle and around the Puget Sound. This can inundate roads, homes and waterways with sewage.

This project investigates the most pressing water pollution sources on campus in order to develop a reproducible model for treating polluted runoff from parking lots and roofs around campus. A variety of stormwater management concepts are accepted by the City of Seattle, urban residents and local non-profits as an effective means to prevent flooding, reduce water pollution, and beautify the area. This project explores the feasibility of rain gardens, bioswales, rainwater catchment, street edge alternatives (SEA), de-paving, phytoremediation, and mycoremediation. Understanding this range of options, and the realistic opportunity to implement these innovations within the existing campus design, and future campus re-designs, is critical to help UW take a leadership role in reducing quantity and improving quality of its stormwater. Moreover, the water quality analysis involved in this project, helps to focus future projects in the areas where they are most needed. The Hydrology Lab will be utilized free of charge for pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. The King County Envrironmental Lab and the SEFS Analytical Service Center will be utilized for metals and carbon testing at a fee for sample preparation and analysis. 

Salmon Safe has endorsed the SSC to assist UW in meeting the Salmon Safe Certification standards.The SSC will continue to generate an ongoing commitment of political will towards progressive stormwater policy and true environmental stewardship. 

To close with an example, if the contaminated stormwater from UW parking lots discharged into an Olympic sized swimming pool (~650,000 gallons), rather than Puget Sound, the parking lot N5 (an average sized lot at UW) could fill it with polluted stormwater in about 3 winter months. The sports field parking lot E1 could fill the pool in about 3 days of heavy rain.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

The impacts of Sustainable Stormwater are understood through the quantity and quality of stormwater projects implemented over the near future on the UW campus. If the groundswell of current excitement about stormwater management can be channeled into successful projects, then the SSC position will be justified.  Water responsibility closely relates to UW’s standing amongst the greenest schools in the nation. In 2013, UW ranked the lowest "water score" of the top 13 Green Schools ( and momentum towards returning UW to the top ten would benefit significantly from improving its reputation on water use and handling.

The SSC will continue to generate an ongoing commitment of political will towards progressive stormwater policy and true environmental stewardship. In terms of policy, the University of Washington was recently certified as a ‘salmon safe’ institution as the beginning of a paradigm shift towards increasing consciousness about our water footprint and impacts on fish habitat.  With the full support of the certifying agency (see attached letter), we suggest incorporating the efforts and findings of the Sustainable Stormwater Coordinator into meeting the Salmon Safe Certificate Condition 4: “The UW shall perform an integrated stormwater management plan for the UW campus that evaluates opportunities to provide additional quantity and quality treatment of stormwater runoff including prioritizing such opportunities and establishing a proposed timeline for completion.”  Ellen Southward of Salmon Safe, the certifying agency, actively works with the University to integrate our findings into the certification process. If successful, this will be a large step towards progressive stormwater policy.

Positive relationship building with administrative officials about stormwater policy is understood through our success to Salmon Safe re-certify UW. Impacts within the greater stormwater community is gauged by networking relationships built with local organizations and other academic institutions (ie: NSCC) working on these issues. Impact on the student body is measured by interest in joining/volunteering for our project, and response to our social media campaign. Educational efforts are measured in terms of political will, policy shift and outreach success. Although these parameters are difficult to measure, we aspire to gauge the qualitative paradigm shift towards stormwater sustainability.

In another sense, the quantitative water quality data speaks for itself- the urgency for action on stormwater is determined, in part, by these findings. Additionally, it will provide a valuable baseline of information. In order to assess the positive impacts provided by any rain garden or bioswale over the course of the project, a baseline for comparison must first be established. The initial conditions of the area of interest must be defined and include the identification and quantification of the pollutants present in the soil and surface water prior to the installment of any rain garden type project. Organic compounds, hydrocarbons and more specifically polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) resulting from incomplete combustion of fuel, are targeted. The quantitative work is done using high pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) equipped with a hydrocarbon specific column; further characterization of the polluting species will be done via gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (GC-MS).

Total amount requested from the CSF: $9,051
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
SSC salary1678/month4.57551
Water/soil testing500500
outreach materials10001000

Non-CSF Sources:

Long term funding
SPU Stormwater Facilities Credit Program
F2 Facilities internship
Project Completion Total: $9,051


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Water quality testingcontinual12/15
Resource development and outreachcontinual12/15
Curriculum development8 months12/15
Funding identificationcontinual12/15
Training new SSC1 month9/15