Kent professor researches urban storm management

Simon Hannig

Kent State Assistant Professor Anne Jefferson and the Cleveland Metroparks teamed up on a research study on urban stormwater management.

Jefferson realized a need to effectively manage stormwater in the landscape in order to improve urban streams.

“I have been researching urban stormwater issues for six years,” Jefferson said. “I started working on urban stormwater issues when I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I began to notice all of the problems with urban flooding and stream degradation.”

Jefferson became involved with the research when water flow data was being collected. She was responsible for making field observations of how the green infrastructure behaved during rain storms, analyzing all of the data collected on water flow and doing the statistical analyses to show the effectiveness of the overall project.

They found that green infrastructure was very effective in reducing stormwater runoff on one street, but not on the other and that green infrastructure can be an important tool for reducing stormwater runoff, but that everything needs to work right in order to be effective.

Her paper has been accepted for publication and underwent a full peer review. She wanted to do this research because it is exciting.

“The project for the paper in press is really exciting, because it is one of the first studies in the world to quantify the effects of green infrastructure applied at a neighborhood or watershed scale and show that it works,” Jefferson said.

Jefferson said almost all previous studies have focused on a single installation scale, and they wanted to know whether those results could scale up to the level of neighborhoods and watersheds where they really wanted to see environmental improvements.

She wants students to know that Kent State research is growing in certain areas.

“Kent State has a growing research strength on urban ecosystems and water, and I’m excited to be part of it,” Jefferson said. “We are doing research and teaching that has an impact on the environment around us, studying systems that many people take for granted.”

Jefferson said efforts to better stormwater are everywhere, from the ditches at the edges of parking lots to embedded within plans for the Summit Street redesign. Her work tests these effort to make sure they are working and to help make them work in the future.

For her research, she hopes this will improve areas to use green infrastructure.

“I hope that people will become more motivated to use green infrastructure at the neighborhood or watershed scale, knowing that it can work,” Jefferson said. “Ultimately, we won’t see improvements in stream hydrology, water quality or ecosystems unless green infrastructure is widespread at even bigger scales than we tested in this project.”

Jefferson said this is the goal of the new stormwater management program that the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District is debuting.

Jefferson has always been excited about the field she’s currently in.

“I have been fascinated by flowing water since I was a child, and I did all of my undergraduate and graduate work focused on rivers – mostly in pristine wilderness,” she said. “When I moved to urban Charlotte, N.C., as a faculty member, I realized that most people didn’t get to experience water in the wilderness and that there was a host of interesting scientific questions with huge societal relevance in urban watersheds. I’ve been hooked on urban hydrology ever since.”

Kent State Professor Joseph Ortiz, who works in the geology department with Jefferson, spoke about Jefferson and her research.

“I can tell you that Dr. Jefferson is one of the leaders in her field and her work is highly regarded at a national and international level,” Ortiz said. “Some of the work that she is conducting looks at the impact of green infrastructure, such as rain gardens on storm water control and water quality improvement.”

Professor Ortiz also said what Jefferson is doing will help the city of Kent.

“As you can imagine, these would all be beneficial to the city of Kent by helping to manage potential floodwater during storms, decreasing nutrients in our water, which improves water quality by decreasing the amount of algae growth in the water,” Ortiz said. “They also help to enhance the beauty of the town, which can lead to all kinds of civic benefits.”

Simon Hannig is the research and graduate studies reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].