Watershed Protection

Application of a Monitoring Plan for Storm-Water Control Measures in the Philadelphia Region

This case study lead by a William Penn Foundation grantee at Villanova University can help us better understand the options available to the conservation practitioner when monitoring the types of stormwater-specific on-the-ground restoration projects that are such an essential component of the Foundation’s work in our sub-watersheds strategy. Just as important as getting these capital projects installed is our ability to determine the extent to which differences with respect to siting, design, materials, etc. are contributing to improved impacts on the health of the watershed. But monitoring is not a one-size fits all approach, even within a single project type like the rain garden featured in this study.

Here Welker et. al introduce us to four types of stormwater projects (infiltration, bioinfiltration, evapotranspiration, and constructed wetland) and some of the different monitoring methods (hydrologic, water quality, and ecological) available. This paper also provides recommendations for how project type can inform our selection of monitoring methods according to the low, medium, or high level of intensity (and associated cost) that we are prepared to pursue. This organization of monitoring approaches into a 3-tiered system demonstrates that even in a resource constrained environment meaningful observations can still be made for each of the stormwater project types, yielding useful findings for the conservation practitioner working with limited funding or limited technical expertise.

The design of a monitoring plan for a stormwater restoration project should foremost be driven by the research questions we’re trying to answer, but will also be constrained by  each project’s design, the geography of the site; and perhaps most importantly, by the financial resources available to actually pay for monitoring we hope to implement. Using a rain garden project installed on university campus outside Philadelphia, Welker et. al determined the costs for implementing a low, medium, and high level monitoring plan during four distinct storm events at $240, $1,065, and $10,565 respectively. While this finding is illustrative only, we can readily imagine an organization short on cash but rich in volunteer hours taking advantage of the options described here to still enable data-driven and impactful decisions on the limited financial resources that are available.

This study was funded in part by the William Penn Foundation under our Watershed Protection strategy.

Published: August 2013
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