“Green infrastructure is an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle. They are effective, economical, and enhance community safety and quality of life. It means planting trees and restoring wetlands, rather than building a costly new water treatment plant.” – American Rivers
STREAM RESTORATION AT THE WELLNESS KITCHEN
Tom McCauley, who leads the Storm Water Management Program of Auburn University Department of Risk Management and Safety, and Dr. Eve Brantley, Director of the Auburn University Water Resources Center (AUWRC), kicked off the tour at the stream restoration project at the Wellness Kitchen.
The Parkerson Mill Creek (PMC) stream restoration project began because of the construction of the Wellness Kitchen. The stream in front of the Wellness Kitchen was not aesthetically pleasing at the time and was actually referred to some people as a “ditch”!
Prior to the restoration, the stream was heavily eroded and taken over by invasive plants. The restoration project includes several features, such as in-stream structures to redirect water flow to the center of the stream channel (instead of the banks), and native vegetation and live staking to help prevent soil erosion.
BIOSWALE WITH CHECK DAMS AT WIRE ROAD
Dr. Thorsten Knappenberger, Associate Professor with the Department of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences of Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, designed and implemented a bioswale with check dams on Wire Road near the intersection of Lem Morrison Drive.
Check dams are erosion control structures, sometimes in roadside ditches such as on Wire Road, that slow down stormwater and trap sediments and pollutants before they can enter downstream waterbodies. The dams are accompanied by native plants, which allows stormwater to infiltrate.
PITCHER PLANT BOG AT THE DONALD E. DAVIS ARBORETUM
Donald E. Davis Arboretum Director Morgan Pendergrass, boasts a vast array of native plants, and among those are carnivorous pitcher plants. The Arboretum hosts one of the largest pitcher plant collections in the Southeast, and takes on plants from surrounding preserves to help “safeguard” protected species from damage from weather, natural, and human disasters.
CISTERN AT THE DAVIS ARBORETUM
Cisterns are similar to rain barrels that are designed to collect stormwater and often connected to gutter systems. Rain barrels and cisterns can reduce flooding and erosion near structures like homes and businesses. The rainwater collected can be re-used to water plants and wash cars.
RAIN GARDEN AT THE DAVIS ARBORETUM
Rain gardens are landscaped areas that use native vegetation to slow down and capture stormwater runoff. Rain gardens can be used at businesses, homes, parks, and school campuses. Anyone can implement a rain garden!
The Arboretum has many low impact development features that you can check out in their self-guided Stormwater Tour.
STORMWATER PLAZA AT TOOMERS CORNER
We met Benjamin Burmester, Assistant Director of Design Services and Judd Langham, Campus Planner, both with the Department of Planning, Design, and Construction at Auburn University, on Toomers Corner to get an overview of the Stormwater Plaza, near the headwaters of Parkerson Mill Creek, the stream that flows through Auburn University’s Campus.
The plaza was constructed in 2015 following the removal of the original Toomers Corner Oaks. The new design features permeable pavers, which are used in place of solid concrete or asphalt, that allow stormwater to soak into the ground.
Supporting the trees underneath the pavers are Silva Cells, which use specialized soils to “intercept and absorb” (deeproot.com) stormwater. Silva Cells support vegetative growth that can capture nutrients and suspended solids that can be harmful to aquatic life.
BIOSWALE AT MELL CONCOURSE
Continuing our tour downstream, we visited the bioswale at Mell Concourse in front of the Mell Classroom Building. Bioswales are usually shallow, narrow areas landscaped with native grasses “designed to capture, treat, and infiltrate stormwater runoff as it moves downstream” (National Association of City Transportation Officials).
Burmester explained that contrary to typical concourse design, the Mell Concourse bioswale is designed to drain towards the center of the concourse as opposed to the outside. In addition to capturing stormwater, the bioswale serves as a separation for bicycles, scooters, and pedestrians.
RAIN GARDEN AT FOY HALL
Prior to the implementation of the rain garden, the area was simply a hot corner of concrete. This “tucked away” amenity was a part of the Chicken Salad Chick construction to create a cooler, more appealing sitting area with shade.
The rain garden includes native and non-native plant species (you may notice some tropical-looking plants). The plants must be able to withstand the heat from the surrounding buildings and concrete, and handle the runoff from nearby rooftops. Burmester and Langham agreed that smaller rain gardens such as these should be included in Auburn University’s future campus plans.
GREEN ROOF AT BROWN-KOPEL ENGINEERING BUILDING
Our final stop on the tour was the green roof on top of the Brown-Kopel Engineering Building, which, at the time it was completed in 2016, was the largest green roof in Alabama.
Green roofs employ native vegetation and specialized substrate to capture stormwater, allowing for water storage and drainage.
According to the Low Impact Development Handbook for the State of Alabama, “Green roofs mitigate stormwater runoff, reduce the heat island effect of impervious surfaces from rooftops, extend roof membrane life, conserve energy, reduce noise and air pollution, provide wildlife habitat in urbanized settings, and improve fire resistance of buildings.”