Designing Smarter Stormwater Systems at Multiple Scales with Transit Time Distribution Theory and Real-Time Control

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Virginia Tech

Urban stormwater runoff is both an environmental threat and a valuable water resource. This dissertation explores the use of two stormwater management strategies, namely green stormwater infrastructure and stormwater real-time control (RTC), for capturing and treating urban stormwater runoff. Chapter 2 focuses on clean bed filtration theory and its application to fecal indicator bacteria removal in experimental laboratory-scale biofilters. This analysis is a significant step forward in our understanding of how physicochemical theories can be melded with hydrology, engineering design, and ecology to improve the water quality benefits of green infrastructure. Chapter 3 focuses on the novel application of unsteady transit time distribution (TTD) theory to solute transport in a field-scale biofilter. TTD theory closely reproduces experimental bromide breakthrough concentrations, provided that lateral exchange with the surrounding soil is accounted for. TTD theory also provides insight into how changing distributions of water age in biofilter storage and outflow affect key stormwater management endpoints, such as biofilter pollutant treatment credit. Chapter 4 focuses on stormwater RTC and its potential for improving runoff capture and water supply in areas with Mediterranean climates. We find that the addition of RTC increases the percent of runoff captured, but does not increase the percent of water demand satisfied. Our results suggest that stormwater RTC systems need to be implemented in conjunction with context-specific solutions (such as spreading basins for groundwater recharge) to reliably augment urban water supply in areas with uneven precipitation. Through a combination of modeling and experimental studies at a range of scales, this dissertation lays the foundation for future integration of TTD theory with RTC to improve regional stormwater management.

urban runoff, green stormwater infrastructure, natural treatment, water supply, low impact development, pollutant fate and transport, stormwater real-time control, fecal indicator bacteria, pathogen removal, stormwater modeling, stormwater policy