The Urban Soil Conundrum

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The Urban Soil Conundrum

Urban soils are the workhorses of stormwater management and also of our infrastructure. They are expected to provide structural support to our buildings and roads, yet be porous enough to infiltrate all stormwater during water quality storm events. They are expected to grow vegetation quickly but not leach nutrients. They are expected to continue to infiltrate stormwater and retain captured pollutants for years, yet they are attacked every winter by road salts. The demands on urban soils are often conflicting, requiring the site designer to think about multiple objectives when calculating stormwater runoff volume, rate, and pollutant capture efficiency.

Urban soils, especially in areas that are older and developed, also are poorly understood. Development practices have ranged from non-mechanized to mechanized and landforms changed with poor documentation, leaving the developed urban landscape often as a mystery. This webinar will discuss these tradeoffs between water quality, water quantity, and urban development practices. It will address the current limitations of both water quality and quantity testing and modeling in urban areas and how these limitations can be overcome, especially in light of climate change and the anticipated increase in high energy, short duration storms which may overwhelm our current stormwater management practices.


Speaker Bio: Shirley E Clark, Ph.D., P.E., D. WRE, ENV SP, F. EWRI, is a Professor of Environmental Engineering and Chair of the Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering program. Her research and teaching interests are at the intersection of water, climate, and public health.

Dr. Clark’s research focuses on the “wicked” challenge that society faces with the stress of urban growth and decaying infrastructure intersecting with climate change and vulnerable communities. She started her research career in the area of optimizing urban stormwater treatment devices to protect receiving water from the myriad of stormwater pollutants, including solids, oils, metals, nutrients, and bacteria. As climate change has produced more intense storms and longer dry periods between storms, her research has expanded to address the impacts of these changing water regimes on pollutant capture and retention in filtration-based systems.

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