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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » National Laboratory for Agriculture and The Environment » Agroecosystems Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #355546

Research Project: Agroecosystem Benefits from the Development and Application of New Management Technologies in Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Agroecosystems Management Research

Title: Capture of stormwater runoff and pollutants by three types of urban best management practices

item Karnatz, Camille - Iowa State University
item Thompson, Jan - Iowa State University
item Logsdon, Sally

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/28/2019
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Urban soil is often disturbed, reducing the rate water moves into the soil and increasing runoff. This study showed that bioretention cells and wooded areas of buffers around streams had lower soil density and faster rates of water moving into the soil than did the surrounding urban areas. Prairie areas were not different from surrounding urban zones. The bioretention cells had higher levels of petroleum by-products and of heavy metals. Making the bioretention cells larger might alleviate the excess pollution retention. Wooded buffer zones are also recommended along urban streams. This information is useful for urban planners who want to improve water quality.

Technical Abstract: Land cover changes associated with urbanization produce hydrological alterations which often diminish infiltration, leading to increased runoff volumes, peak flows, and greater need for pollution control. Best management practices (BMPs) have been designed to capture and contain stormwater runoff near the source. The objectives of this study were to assess performance of three types of urban stormwater BMPs. Three types of practices - bioretention cells, native landscaping (reconstructed prairie areas) and three-zone vegetated riparian buffers located in Ames and Ankeny, IA were assessed by conducting infiltration tests and collecting soil and water samples. For the biocells in particular, practice surface areas were smaller in relation to their contributing areas than is recommended in current design criteria. On average, the bioretention cells and the buffers’ wooded zones had significantly lower soil bulk densities, higher infiltration rates, and smaller runoff volumes than those of contributing areas. Time-to-runoff was particularly high for bioretention cells. Infiltration characteristics of the native landscapes (reconstructed prairie) and buffer prairie zones we studied were not significantly different from those of the contributing areas. Total extractable hydrocarbon concentrations were elevated in the bioretention cells, while metals such as chromium had greater concentrations in the contributing areas. Based on these findings, we recommend careful attention to sizing, particularly for biocells, and suggest routine incorporation of soil amendments (such as compost) to improve the performance of reconstructed prairie areas. Our findings also suggest that more widespread implementation of these source-control measures in retrofit of existing developments and/or in the design of newly urbanizing areas will be effective for reducing stormwater runoff volumes and improving water quality.