Paint Branch Bioretention Series 2014/2015


After completing the solar powered irrigation system on campus in Fall 2012, the Maryland Sustainability Engineering local team started looking for new potential projects around campus. The challenge of solving a problem using principles of sustainability brought many ideas to surface. The project that is currently in process is to build a series of bioretention areas that will work together to solve a water management and erosion problem on campus. MDSE has worked with bioretention in the past with the Guilford Run Project in 2011, and this new project will expand the chapter’s current knowledge on the topic and educate more members about the process and uses of bioretention.

Bioretention is a way to filter and control storm water runoff. From above the ground they look like shallow depressions, but underneath they have layers that are carefully designed for excess water management. These swales use layers of different materials that will help filter the incoming water before it infiltrates the ground water or goes into storm drain runoff pipes. These materials are purposefully selected for their filtering properties. For example, the plants, the top layer, are chosen for their ability to filter pollutants and survive in occasional submerged conditions. The soils and gravel layers below are chosen for their properties of allowing water to infiltrate quickly and ability to direct water to the storm drain below. The drains move the water to existing storm water systems underground. Not all bioretentions are planned the same, and the designs vary depending on the needs of the project site.


Underground View of Bioretention Layers
“Ryders Lane – Water Quality Management.” Ryders Lane – Water Quality Management. Rutgers University, 2009. Web

The MDSE bioretention project is taking place behind parking lot XXI and along Paint Branch trail. The majority of the watershed is made up of a asphalt parking lot, which causes the rainwater runoff to pick up speed and pollution as it travels through the area. Being that the site is so close to the Paint Branch River, it will act as a last line of defense for filtering and capturing the water. The project is focusing on groundwater recharge, to reduce the amount of inflowing stormwater in times of high precipitation.


Project Location and Watershed Area. (Image Credit: Scott Munroe, Facilities Management, College Park).

The University has flagged this area as a priority due to the safety concerns of the area. All of this water flow is causing significant trenching and erosion in the area, which is a safety hazard for pedestrians and bike riders. A focus on Landscape Architecture is also very prevalent on this project as well. With the addition of the permeably paved path, this adds another unique challenge to the project.

The team has been working since fall 2013 with a group of professional and faculty mentors in the fields of engineering, landscape architecture, and plant sciences to cover the various aspects of the project. This project hopes to continue the efforts of the Guilford Run Bioretention Project in the mission of setting an example for others in the Anacostia Watershed of environmental responsibility. The implementation of this project was completed in the Spring 2015 semester.