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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Awards $1 Million Grant to Villanova University For Stormwater Management Research in the City of Philadelphia

Led by Principal Investigator Robert Traver, PhD, in Villanova’s College of Engineering, the team will study the performance and effectiveness of green infrastructure stormwater practices in Philadelphia


VILLANOVA, Pa. – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded a $1 million grant to Villanova University to study the performance and effectiveness of green infrastructure stormwater practices in urban areas – using Philadelphia as the pilot area. These practices are required for cities to meet their obligations under the Clean Water Act, the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution. Philadelphia is emerging as a leader in innovative stormwater management and will serve as an example for other urban communities.

The research is under the direction of Principal Investigator Robert Traver, PhD, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and director of the Villanova Center for the Advancement of Sustainability in Engineering, in collaboration with Andrea Welker, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Bridget Wadzuk, associate professor in the Department Civil and Environmental Engineering, as well as the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) and faculty members from Temple University and Morgan State University.

“The goal of our grant is to maximize the efficiency and robustness of green infrastructure being used to implement the PWD’s Office of Watersheds Green City Clean water initiative,” said Traver, who also serves as director of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership (VUSP).  “Our understanding of how green infrastructure works has expanded tremendously over the last decade, but we still have more to learn so we can improve our designs and create the next generation of stormwater control measures.”

Added Traver, “Personally, I am thrilled to partner with the PWD on this project.  Many cities across the United States and the world are paying attention to the innovative approach that Philadelphia is taking to address their combined sewer compliance requirements. PWD is a leader, and I expect to learn as much from them as I hope they do from our work.”

Traver, Welker and Wadzuk, in partnership with the Philadelphia Water Department, will evaluate the performance of existing green infrastructure devices in Philadelphia, including stormwater tree trenches, bumpouts, rain gardens, green roofs and permeable pavements, to develop and design improved next generation green infrastructure that will strategically reduce polluted stormwater runoff and surpass the Clean Water Act requirements. The recommended next generation green infrastructure will be based on holistic research that takes hydrological, geotechnical, environmental and economic constraints into consideration to meet the goals and needs of each specific location and the community as a whole. 

“Green infrastructure investments are vital to creating healthy, livable communities,” said Bob Perciasepe, EPA deputy administrator.  “This pilot project with Philadelphia’s Green City, Clean Waters program will help us yield results and gain knowledge to help apply these practices in cities from coast to coast.  And, these results can be increasing green spaces, creating jobs, saving energy and reducing urban heat island effects that contribute to climate change.”

Aided by the results of this research, next generation green infrastructure stormwater control measures will provide a sustainable long-term solution to combined sewer overflows in Philadelphia.  In addition, the next generation infrastructure will improve air and water quality, improve human health, increase property values, create green jobs, improve quality of life and provide additional recreational amenities. The successful implementation of next generation green infrastructure will elevate the city’s stature as a green city that utilizes innovative stormwater management techniques to not only control runoff, but also improve the aesthetics of neighborhoods and the quality of life for its residents.

The team will share research findings from their work with the engineering community, Philadelphia residents and Philadelphia schoolchildren so that the public is aware of the importance of green infrastructure in urban settings. The research will be presented at conferences and events in Philadelphia neighborhoods, as well as integrated into the undergraduate and graduate curriculum at Villanova and introduced to school children through K-12 engineering outreach programs that support STEM initiatives and work to inspire the next generation of engineers.

The EPA award was effective Sept. 1, 2013, and the project will run through Aug. 28, 2017. The research will support the participation of graduate and undergraduate students, who will work alongside Traver, Welker and Wadzuk on the project.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.

Kiera Daly, Media Relations Specialist
Villanova University
(610) 519-7357