Preventing, minimizing and mitigating the impacts from urban stormwater runoff through research

November 07, 2022

By John Bilotta

Through a unique collaboration, Minnesota is finding answers to priority questions about how urban stormwater runoff can be more effectively and efficiently managed to prevent, minimize and mitigate the impacts to local lakes, streams, rivers and groundwater resources. Urban stormwater runoff can negatively impact water resources by altering the rate and volume (quantity) of runoff that can lead to downstream flooding and provide a pathway for pollutants (quality) that negatively impact use of the resources for drinking water, recreation, fisheries, transportation and other ecosystem services.

Stormwater runoff from a parking lot
Stormwater best management practices established through research minimize impacts to water resources.  Sediment traps, forebays, infiltration basins, and rock inlets manage stormwater runoff to Bassett Creek in Minneapolis.  
Photo credit: JBilotta, June 2022

The collaboration includes University and non-University affiliated professionals such as researchers, state agencies, local city and watershed professionals, private engineers and resource managers. The collaboration is brought together under the umbrella of the Minnesota Stormwater Research Council that includes a twenty-member advisory board that assists in identifying research priorities and selecting projects for funding. The council is part of a larger formalized effort housed under the Water Resources Center - the Stormwater Research and Technology Transfer Program.

Minnesota Sea Grant plays a role in this collaboration through the support of two positions associated with these efforts, research administrator John Bilotta and extension educator Maggie Karschnia. MNSG also has a representative on the advisory board for the council. Even more importantly, MNSG involvement ensures that the needs of stakeholders are reflected in research priorities and that synergies between research funded by MNSG and research funded by the Minnesota Stormwater Research Council are identified.   

As the program name implies, the Stormwater Research and Technology Transfer Program, efforts are not only about conducting world-class, high priority research, but also efforts to make ensures information and research discoveries are made available to those who can best use them - Minnesota’s urban stormwater planners, engineers, designers, and managers. 

The Minnesota Stormwater Seminar Series is one example of technology transfer that, provides monthly opportunities for stormwater professionals and practitioners to connect with researchers. More information and the schedule can be found online HERE

Another example took place  in July 2022, where WRC and MNSG staff hosted the annual council meeting with more than 80 participants; half participating in-person and half participating virtually. Debuting in 2022-23 will be a new pilot Clean Sweep for Water Quality Program, an extension training and education program to aid cities in developing and implementing enhanced street sweeping strategies and plans to remove pollutants from roadways. This form of pollution prevention is one of the most effective and efficient methods to reduce or prevent pollutants from ever reaching water resources.

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