Sustainable Stormwater Coordinator

Estimated Amount to be requested from the CSF: $15,102

Letter of Intent:


Creation of the Sustainable Stormwater Coordinator (SSC) position aims to designate a SEFS research assistant appointment to spread awareness about and 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 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.    

A comprehensive feasibility study 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 and the study will be overseen by hydrology Professor Susan Bolton. The study will be executed in consultation with campus Engineer James Morin, Landscape Architect Kristine Kenney, and Grounds Manager Howard Nakase. Feasibility study specifically includes:

  1. Preliminary assessment of stormwater hotspots through selective water quality and soil testing for organic and inorganic pollutants, at key stormwater drainages. Tests for pH, alkalinity, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, will be prioritized.
  2. Campus wide stormwater web resource, summarizing pollution impact on Portage/Union Bays, analysis of current stormwater project strengths and pitfalls (including past/present CSF projects). Develop a GIS layer map of campus-wide pollution hotspots, impervious surfaces and potential future mitigation locations.
  3. Design of a reproducible, best practice and cost-effective bio-retention model that can be adapted in multiple spots around campus. This can serve as a guiding example for the rising number of students aspiring to develop campus stormwater projects.


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 Portage Bay and Lake Washington. 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. This project will investigate the most pressing water pollution sources on campus and develop a reproducible model for treating polluted runoff from key parking lots and roofs.


The SSC is a permanent position that will provide 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 graduate students, which meets bi-weekly in Anderson 107-C, will provide support to the SSC, including communication and networking, outreach and education, and assistance in water and soil  testing.

The core student group has identified ‘Continued Accountability’ as a primary objective, and envisioned the student RA position through SEFS. Department administrator Wendy Star has agreed to serve as budget administrator for the SCC project should it be approved by CSF. The creation of this position has the written support of HSS, 12,000 Rain Gardens, Puget Soundkeeper, the Plant Microbiology Laboratory, and phytoremediation Professor Sharon Doty. Supporting letters from each will be included in the CSF proposal.


Outreach via social media outlets and a blog will have a key place in communicating this project to the student body. Integration into classes for University credit through SEFS and graduate projects for the Masters in Environmental Horticulture are both possible.

The ongoing SSC position will help to coordinate student stormwater efforts over the long-term, channel communication between students and admin through one informed and capable liason, and collaborate with off-campus entities to establish UW’s leadership in the greater stormwater community.

By having this stormwater point person, combined with regular meetings, water projects around campus will begin to unite, heighten impact through symbiosis, and share information and resources.  With parking lot redesigns throughout campus, this RA can channel student voices of water related considerations with re-development.


UW 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. The certifying agency has endorsed the SSC to assist UW in 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”. The SSC will work to generate an ongoing commitment of political will towards progressive stormwater policy and true environmental stewardship. 

Financially, the SSC will research 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.

9 months of CSF funding will serve as a kick start to inaugurate this position. SEFS will support SSC with ongoing funding options once position is established.


15,102  (figure based on $1678 Schedule A RA position x 9 months)

Primary Contact First & Last Name: Matt Schwartz