New Waves March 2009

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

A&M students receive environmental grant

By Caitlin Churchill

Saving the planet starts at home, at least for one group of Texas A&M students who recently received an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant and with it plan to improve hydrologic sustainability for the A&M campus in College Station.

The $10,000 grant is part of the EPA's People, Prosperity, and the Planet program (P3), which focuses on sustainable energy solutions. The grant money provides funding for 12 A&M student researchers to travel to Washington D.C. and present their research to compete in the EPA's Fifth Annual National Sustainable Design Expo held April 18-20 on the National Mall.

EPA will have over 40 P3 teams and over 40 nonprofit and government exhibitors demonstrating their sustainable designs for alternative energy sources, agricultural applications, green chemistry, green buildings, sustainable water use, and many more sustainable technologies.

The student researchers who hope to better capture and understand the impacts of urbanization on water quality include Civil Engineering majors Andrea Ryan, Hillary Holmes, Neetha Ravikumar, Marcio Giacomoni, Michelle Hollingswoth, Chandana Damodaram, William Saour, and Philip Bullock; Computer Science major Meg Davis; Water Management and Hydrologic Sciences majors Prakash Khedun and Allen Berthold; and Ecosystem Science and Management major Ross Klein.

"The objective of this research is to better quantify and increase awareness of storm water runoff impacts to increase the hydrologic sustainability of the Texas A&M University campus," said Dr. Emily Zechman, assistant professor in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering and supporting faculty for the P3 program research. "This scenario provides an ideal laboratory for students to participate in applying their skills to a local problem and to contribute solutions and improvements on their campus."

Zechman said the group is undertaking several tasks. Among the tasks are developing wireless sensor technology to collect rainfall-runoff data, evaluating water quality and the health of channel and riparian ecosystems, and developing new sustainability metrics for evaluating the relationship between increased impervious areas and the impact on downstream communities.

"This research will lead to a new metric to quantify the impact of development on stream hydrology and ecosystems that can ultimately be used in planning new land development projects," Zechman said. "We also want to demonstrate that decentralized stormwater management devices, such as pervious pavement, rainwater harvesting, and green roofs, can be strategically designed for a sustainable flow regime, or instream flow conditions that mimic predevelopment conditions."

Zechman said it is her hope that through the P3 project, students will become aware of the impact of urbanization and development on water resources quality and quantity.

Other supporting Texas A&M faculty for the P3 program include Dr. Bryan Boulanger, assistant professor in the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Dr. Georgianne Moore, assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, and Dr. Radu Stoleru, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Additional financial support was received through the Texas A&M Physical Plant, and the Zachry Department of Civil Engineering supported this program by lending hydrologic equipment.

EPA awards P3 grants every year to researchers whose work is benefiting people, promoting prosperity, and protecting the planet by addressing challenges to sustainability in both the developed and developing world.

To learn more about the P3 program, Texas A&M's P3 research, or other grant winners and their projects, visit http://es.epa.gov/ncer/p3/current/index.html.

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