Development of a Design-Based Computational Model of Bioretention Systems
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Multiple problems caused by urban runoff have emerged as a consequence to the continuing development of urban areas in recent decades. The increase of impervious land areas can significantly alter watershed hydrology and water quality. Typical impacts to downstream hydrologic regimes include higher peak flows and runoff volumes, shorter concentration times, and reduced infiltration. Urban runoff increases the transport of pollutants and nutrients and thus degrades water bodies adjacent to urban areas. One of the most frequently used practices to restore the hydrology and water quality of urban watersheds is bioretention (also known as a rain garden). Despite its wide applicability, an understanding of its multiple physiochemical and biological treatment processes remains an active research area. To provide a wide ability to evaluate the hydrologic input to bioretention systems, spatial and temporal distribution of storm events in Virginia were studied. Results generated from long-term frequency analysis of 60-year precipitation data demonstrate that the 90 percentile, or 10-year return period rainfall depth and dry duration in Virginia are between 22.9 – 35.6 mm and 15.3 – 25.8 days, respectively. Monte-Carlo simulations demonstrated that sampling programs applied in different regions would likely encounter more than 30% of precipitation events less than 2.54 mm, and 10% over 25.4 mm. Further experimental research was conducted to evaluate bioretention recipes for retaining stormwater nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). A mesocosm experiment was performed to simulate bioretention facilities with 3 different bioretention blends as media layers with underdrain pipes for leachate collection. A control group with 3 duplicates for each media was compared with a replicated vegetated group. Field measurement of dissolved oxygen (DO), oxidation-reduction potential (ORP), pH, and total dissolved solids (TDS) was combined with laboratory analyses of total suspended solids (TSS), nitrate (NO3), ammonium (NH4), phosphate (PO4), total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN) and total phosphorus (TP) to evaluate the nutrient removal efficacies of these blends. Physicochemical measurements for property parameters were performed to determine characteristics of blends. Isotherm experiments to examine P adsorption were also conducted to provide supplementary data for evaluation of bioretention media blends. The results show that the blend with water treatment residuals (WTR) removed >90% P from influent, and its effluent had the least TDS / TSS. Another blend with mulch-free compost retained the most (50 – 75%) total nitrogen (TN), and had the smallest DO / ORP values, which appears to promote denitrification under anaerobic conditions. Increase of hydraulic retention time (HRT) to 6 h could influence DO, ORP, TKN, and TN positively. Plant health should also be considered as part of a compromise mix that sustains vegetation. Two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) found that single and interaction effects of HRT and plants existed, and could affect water quality parameters of mesocosm leachate. Based upon the understanding of the physiochemical and hydrologic conditions mentioned previously, a design model of a bioretention system became the next logical step. The computational model was developed within the Matlab® programming environment to describe the hydraulic performance and nutrient removal of a bioretention system. The model comprises a main function and multiple subroutines for hydraulics and treatment computations. Evapotranspiration (ET), inflow, infiltration, and outflow were calculated for hydrologic quantitation. Biomass accumulation, nitrogen cycle and phosphorus fate within bioretention systems were also computed on basis of the hydrologic outputs. The model was calibrated with the observed flow and water quality data from a field-scale bioretention in Blacksburg, VA. The calibrated model is capable of providing quantitative estimates on flow pattern and nutrient removal that agree with the observed data. Sensitivity analyses determined the major factors affecting discharge were: watershed width and roughness for inflow; pipe head and diameter for outflow. Nutrient concentrations in inflow are very influential to outflow quality. A long-term simulation demonstrates that the model can be used to estimate bioretention performance and evaluate its impact on the surrounding environment. This research advances the current understanding of bioretention systems in a systematic way, from hydrologic behavior, monitoring, design criteria, physiochemical performance, and computational modeling. The computational model, combined with the results from precipitation frequency analysis and evaluation of bioretention blends, can be used to improve the operation, maintenance, and design of bioretention facilities in practical applications.
- Doctoral Dissertations