Sustainable Stormwater Coordinator

Executive Summary:

Creation of the Sustainable Stormwater Coordinator (SSC) position aims to designate a SEFS research assistant appointment to spread awareness about and develop an informed plan to physically improve stormwater treatment on campus. This will be 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, this project will seek concrete and actionable runoff management strategies, informed by water quality testing of discharges from parking lots, rooftops and sports fields.

Presently, several campus stormwater projects have begun the conversation about responsibly handling our fresh water resource at UW.  However, the importance of unifying a campus-wide stormwater strategy is urgent, in line with the UW core value of “setting the bar well above merely complying with laws and standards”. The SSC will unite disparate stormwater efforts at UW and channel student efforts towards practical and feasible solutions. For example, the SSC will work directly with Husky Sustainable Storms (HSS) to expedite progress towards project implementation. Additionally, through the involvement of a supportive and engaged team of undergraduates, graduate students and faculty, the position will strongly emphasize educational and outreach aspects.

This position has precedence for CSF funding, as set by the CPO “Sustainability Intern”, which compiled energy data to inform best practice LEED building certification for UW. The SSC position will likewise develop a baseline of information, which is critical to direct successful present and future student projects. The RA position and the study will be overseen by civil engineer and Professor of Hydrology, Dr. Susan Bolton, with budget and oversight by the SEFS department. The study will be executed in consultation with campus Engineer James Morin and Grounds Manager Howard Nakase. Landscape Architect Kristine Kenney provided valuable feedback to the project and has voiced support for the proposal. She will be a valuable ally to the SSC. Establishing and maintaining productive lines of communication with these important administrators will be a key, ongoing responsibility of the SSC. 

A comprehensive feasibility study (detailed in attached ‘Strategic Plan’) will analyze the most practical, effective and cost-efficient innovations that can be designed on campus to reduce stormwater quantity and improve water quality. The RA position will spearhead this study, with support from the growing number of students involved. This student group currently operates as a sub-set of the Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) UW chapter, but aims to start an independent RSO called 'Sustainable Stormwater'.

Financially, the SSC will research fee-reduction for stormwater treatments (See 'Student Involvement' section). 

9 months of CSF funding will serve as a kick start to inaugurate this position, at $1678 Schedule A/month x 9 months =$15,102  funding the RA position. The SSC will explore funding options to continue the position after 9 months. SEFS will support the SSC in locating ongoing funding options once the position is established. $2415 in water/soil testing (as detailed in attached spreadsheet) is also requested.  TOTAL: 15102 + 2415 = $17517 requested

Student Involvement:

During the formation of the "Green Liver Project", the antecedent to this grant proposal, a growing number of students have proposed working on campus stormwater issues. In particular, several Masters of Environmental Horticulture (MEH) students have expressed interest in undertaking campus stormwater projects as their master's capstone project- a minimum 9-credit Independent Study (SEFS 600). Faculty adviser to the MEH program Dr. Kern Ewing has authorized the facilitation of using SSC designed campus stormwater projects for this SEFS 600 credit. Professor Susan Bolton has authorized the incorporation of the Sustainable Stormwater Feasibility study as a case study and field trip (to visit the campus sites analyzed) into both Wildland Hydrology (ESRM 426:  25 students) and Advanced Wildland Hydrology (SEFS 525: 10 students). The SSC would accompany the students on these days and present a powerpoint presentation and relevant information to the class. The same application has been authorized for Eco-systems of the PNW (ESRM 201: 70 students). The SSC has also been approved to assist in selecting a respected speaker on stormwater issues (the SSC could potentially be this speaker) for the Environmental Science and Resource Management Seminar (ESRM 429: 150 students). 

Of the student body, five students who formed the foundation of the antecedent Green Liver Project, have re-committed time and energy to the success of Sustainable Stormwater. These students contribute a small amount of time per week, on a volunteer basis. This multi-disciplinary core group of graduate students, which meets bi-weekly in Anderson 107-C, will provide support to the SSC, including communication and networking, social media outreach, and assistance in water and soil testing. In relation to soil/water testing, this will provide a key opportunity for students to learn the fundamental process of gathering and analyzing samples. It will also ensure that the rigid testing schedule can be met consistently, as several students will be able to fill in, if the SSC is ever absent. 

Sustainable Stormwater has outlined recruitment strategies, in addition to the direct outreach through involvement in classes. This includes working with the RSO office in the process to solidify Sustainable Stormwater as an RSO, and networking with relevant campus RSO’s such as SAGE, the UW Farm and Earth Club. We envision a collaborative campus event with SER on World Water Day (3/22/15) next spring. This will be a valuable networking tool that would encourage student involvement.

The core student group has identified ‘Continued Accountability’ as a primary objective, and envisioned the student RA position "Sustainable Stormwater Coordinator" (SSC), through the SEFS department. The SSC is a permanent position that will establish 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 Puget Sound restoration community. The SSC responsibilities take more time than is possible on a volunteer basis. Estimated at 20 hr/week these responsibilities include:

  1. Oversee design and completion of feasibility study, project designs and web resource in 9 months (for the first term of service as funded by CSF)
  2. Coordinate and support student efforts towards stormwater policy, outreach, education and project implementation (including HSS and MEH capstone projects)
  3. Build relationships and communicate through a singular channel with administration and faculty about campus stormwater. Assist administrators to meet the five-year goals of the Salmon Safe certification standards.
  4. Identify permanent sources of funding for this SSC position, and stormwater fee reductions. 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, the economic incentive of exploring this aspect is justified.

SEFS department administrator Wendy Star has agreed to serve as budget administrator for Sustainable Stormwater should it be approved by the CSF. The creation of this position has the written support of HSS, Salmon Safe, 12,000 Rain Gardens, and the Plant Microbiology Laboratory. Supporting letters from each are attached to this proposal. Please note that several of the letters are titled or use language referring to the ‘Green Liver Project’. Due to time constraints between grant rounds, new letters referencing this new proposal were not possible. The support for Sustainable Stormwater remains unequivocal and can be followed up with new letters as soon as possible. Also, please see the "Strategic Plan" attachment for a more specific breakdown of Sustainable Stormwater's objectives, as led by the SSC. 

Education & Outreach:

Currently, the University of Washington, Seattle, claims four rain gardens, two outside the Molecular Engineering building, and one each outside the Community Design Center and the Center for Urban Horticulture, respectively. 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 will maximize efficiency, minimize redundancy in communicating with administration, and ensure ongoing monitoring and maintenance of campus stormwater projects. To this end, the visage of environmental stewardship around campus can be better understood and publicized. Continuous educational signage at campus restoration sites is an active project of SER, and Sustainable Stormwater will utilize this tool to link stormwater projects on campus.    

Through comprehensive outreach and educational campaigns we aspire to bring stormwater stewardship to the forefront of environmental sustainability at UW.  Our target audiences are the UW Research Community, UW Student Body, UW F2 Staff, UW OPB Staff, and UW Faculty. We intend to reach these audiences by the creation of a facebook page, posters, pamphlets, class raps, maintaining a website, and reaching out to media outlets including but not limited to: The Daily, UW Today, The Stranger, and The Seattle Times. We also intend to support and represent the CSF at all sustainability focused activities for the campus community, including Dawg Days, Earth Day, and the UW Sustainability Summit. Additionally, an educational series of design charrettes with stakeholders, hosted by the Sustainable Stormwater partner from 12,000 Rain Gardens, will bring campus landscapers up to speed on best practice related to rain gardens and other bio-retention options.

Sustainable Stormwater hosts official bi-weekly meetings every other Thursday at 3:30pm in Anderson 107C, open to students, faculty, and administrators interested in the project.  A website that aims to maximize outreach capacity, and will host all gathered data and designs, is in the making. The SSC will be based out of Bloedel Hall Room 238 and have consistent office hours, as a convenience to collaborating students, faculty, and administrators.

The web resource (detailed in the section "Student Involvement") will build upon database and mapping efforts previously initiated by our collaborators at Stewardship Partners. This is a valuable tool that will give a birds-eye view to the stormwater situation on campus and could shift the emphasis of landscape management throughout the campus. The website will also include designs for cost-effective stormwater projects that students can implement in specific campus locations. The information contained in the web resource will be used in a powerpoint presentation that can be delivered by the SSC or other informed members of Sustainable Stormwater, to classes or RSO’s willing to learn about stormwater and water use. This can particularly apply to student groups like the UW Farm, student initiatives like the Kinkaid Ravine Restoration, and administrators like Facilities and Grounds Management.

Opportunities for students to become involved will be 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 be able to put students in contact with relevant local NGO's and governmental projects, and identify productive networking relationships in the realm of stormwater. 

At the Salish Sea Eco-systems Conference on April 30th, we aspire to network with stormwater stewards in the greater Seattle community.

Educational efforts will also be 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. Doctoral candidate Ellen Weir studies the 'social acceptance of phytoremediation' and can incorporate the outcomes of this project into her PhD work. This relates very closely to several phytoremediation based stormwater treatments, and will serve as an important gauge of student interest in water quality issues. 

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

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 will investigate the most pressing water pollution sources on campus and 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 will explore 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, will help to focus future projects in the areas where they are most needed. The water testing budget spreadsheet is attached. The Hydrology Lab will be utilized free of charge for pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. The SEFS Analytical Service Center will be utilized for metals and carbon testing at a fee for sample preparation and analysis. 

Parameters for our stormwater project designs can be analyzed through the EPA monitoring platform, the Storm Water Management Model (SWMM). The System for Urban Stormwater Treatment and Analysis Integration (SUSTAIN) is also suited to our project as it assists in best management practices and low impact development techniques in urban watersheds.​​ Water quality testing will be supported by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance Pollution Monitoring Program.

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 will be 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 work 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, has agreed to work 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 will be understood through our success to Salmon Safe re-certify UW. Impacts within the greater stormwater community will be gauged by networking relationships built with local organizations and other academic institutions (ie: NSCC) working on these issues. Impact on the student body will be measured by interest in joining/volunteering for our project, and response to our social media campaign. 

In another sense, the quantitative water quality data from the feasibility study will speak for itself- the urgency for action on stormwater will be determined 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, will be targeted. The quantitative work will be 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). The data and statistical analyses will be done on work computers utilizing pre-installed software (e.g. Excel, SPSS).

Total amount requested from the CSF: $17,517
This funding request is a: Loan
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
RA tuition Schedule A16789 months15102
Water/soil testing2415

Non-CSF Sources:

Project Completion Total: $17,517


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Identify existing dataone month6/1/14
Analyze 3-5 sitestwo months8/1/14
Identification + quantification of pollutantsfive months12/1/14
Develop site designsfour months4/1/15
Create stormwater hotspot layer mapone month5/1/15
Assist Husky Sustainable Stormsongoing
form and solidify RSO, outreachongoing
Policy and Funding Researchongoing