An example of a demonstration project of the RAINmgt Center’s Thrust 2, sustainable management of diffuse sources of nutrients, is a rain garden that was recently constructed at Young Middle Magnet School in East Tampa*, FL. This project was managed by a USF doctoral candidate, Ryan Locicero, to better manage stormwater runoff and nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorous) as well as provide a hands on learning experience to young students. This rain garden averts 277, 380 gallons of water and has already provided a green and aesthetically pleasing space in place of standing water that would flood and damage the school gymnasium during intense storm events.
For more of a background on the technology and design implemented, a rain garden is a Low Impact Development (LID) technology, also known as a bioretention system. This system uses an engineered planting bed within a shallow depression to filter and retain stormwater. Water slowly infiltrates through vegetated soil, mulch and sand layers to the natural groundwater. Nitrogen and phosphorous removal are achieved through filtration and adsorption, plant and microbial uptake, nitrification and denitrification.
The design of the East Tampa rain garden included ten native plant species and an engineered media layer below the surface. This layer was made of locally sourced and recycled materials of construction sand and tire crumb which increases ammonium retention rates. This design has the potential to be utilized throughout Florida to reduce stormwater runoff and nutrients into the environment that also reduces energy costs of treating the water at waste water treatment plants.
In addition to the environmental and economic benefits, this demonstration project engaged over 150 middle school students in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. STEM preparation is low in K-12 education in the U.S. along with enrollment in graduate degrees in these fields despite the fact that STEM has been identified as critical for a 21st century workforce.
For more information on this project and rain gardens go to raingardens.us
*East Tampa is a 7.5 sq. mi. majority African American community within the City of Tampa, and the largest residential community draining directly to McKay Bay, embayment of Tampa Bay and national avian sanctuary that is an impaired estuary for DO and nutrients (USEPA, 2004). In 2004, the City of Tampa established the East Tampa Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) and one of the first projects selected for funding was stormwater pond redevelopment and beautification, targeting three of the 31 ponds in the community. The University of South Florida (USF) has a long history of engagement with the East Tampa Community Revitalization Partnership (ETCRP), the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa Inc. (CDC), the Hillsborough County School District and the City of Tampa Stormwater Division, including a successful EPA funded project, Water, Awareness, Research and Education (WARE). With funding from EPA’s People Prosperity and the Planet (P3) Phase I and II grants received in 2008 and 2009, co-PI Trotz and the USF Engineers for a Sustainable World student chapter have partnered with the East Tampa Community Redevelopment Area, and three of its schools (Young Middle Magnet, Lockhart Elementary and King’s Kids Elementary) to build science curriculum around stormwater ponds (Trotz and Thomas, 2009). WARE has also developed informal science education kiosks that introduce LID concepts to the community. Our recent research also demonstrated the link between environmental justice and urban water management in East Tampa and other parts of the city through revitalization of existing stormwater infrastructures in Tampa (Wright Wendel et al., 2011).