Sustainability at the University of Maryland


The campus has several notable stormwater management features that receive and treat stormwater generated from campus rooftops, roads, parking lots and other impervious areas. Within the main campus limits, there are three main watersheds that receive stormwater runoff: Paint Branch Campus Creek and Northwest Branch.

All of these tributaries are part of the Anacostia watershed a priority watershed for restoration within the broader watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. The University resides in the heart of the Anacostia basin, and as the university became more urbanized, so too has the land surrounding the Anacostia River. In a nod to regional environmental cooperation, the university in 2002 became a member of the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership (AWRP), which is a coalition that is focused on cleaning and restoring the Anacostia watershed. Primarily comprised of federal, Maryland, and District of Columbia agencies, the AWRP also includes several nongovernmental organizations and businesses in the region. Efforts are underway to better manage runoff of water from impervious surfaces throughout campus. In a 2007 report, campus drainage was evaluated comprehensively to identify non-point source storm water pollution and stream degradation. The campus was categorized into 25 sub watersheds delineating storm water drainage systems. Knowing these patterns creates better opportunities for designing, funding, and implementing future water quality improvement projects.

Also in 2014, new staff has been added to help expand the stormwater management inspection and management program. In addition, GIS database and mobile technologies are being developed to get real-time information to field personnel.

At a Glance:

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Knight Hall Cistern

The Knight Hall building site is estimated to reduce stormwater runoff by 27 percent compared with pre-construction conditions. This reduction was achieved by converting an impervious parking lot into a green building surrounded by green space and capturing the rain that falls on the site in a large cistern buried under the courtyard. This system collects rainwater from roof drains, channels the water through a high capacity filter in the courtyard, and stores it in an underground cistern. A drip irrigation system detects the amount of moisture in the soil so that plants are only watered as needed. When the irrigation system calls for water, pumps send water from the cistern through the irrigation system for distribution on-site. The cistern is sized to handle the average rainfall for the month of July (worst-case demand scenario). In addition to reducing the campus's use of potable water for irrigation, the quality of the stormwater runoff is also improved by filtering the water collected from the roof through the mechanical filtering provided by the capture system and the natural filtering provided by plants and other organisms in the soil.

Low Impact Development (LID) Projects

Improvements in dealing with storm water can be seen in a variety of decentralized Low Impact Development (LID) projects, like those visible at the south east edge of the Comcast parking lots, which catch and filter contaminated runoff from these paved surfaces before the runoff reaches Campus Creek. Other areas on campus that serve to filter or catch storm water include a large retrofit bioretention pond behind the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center and a sand filter on the south lawn of the University House. Also, the women's field hockey field filters, slows, and reduces the temperature of storm water runoff before it reaches the Paint Branch. Campus Creek, which is a high priority for restoration, includes four LID projects within the stream buffer of the creek. At the eastern border of Lot 4i, the university partnered with the Maryland State Highway Administration to install a bioretention facility that treats uncontrolled runoff from the parking area before it reaches the Paint Branch. Throughout the campus new plantings and expansion of the riparian buffer are planned.

Green Roof on Cumberland Hall

The Department of Residential Facilities installed a green roof system on Cumberland Hall in 2008. The green roof covers approximately 65 percent roof surface with approximately 6,000 square feet of plantings. The Cumberland Hall roof is characterized as an "extensive" green roof meaning the depth of the growing media is between 3" - 6" and the plants are low growing, low maintenance, and drought resistant. Extensive green roof systems are not designed to accommodate foot traffic.

Since completing the green roof at Cumberland Hall, additional green roofs have been installed at The Stamp Student Union, Diner and two support buildings.

Washington Quad

The Washington Quad is the outdoor area within the South Hill Community surrounded by Baltimore, Prince George’s, Harford, Frederick, Washington, and Howard residence halls. In the spring of 2008, the Quad underwent a dramatic renovation. It was transformed into a park-like setting for residents’ relaxation and enjoyment. As part of this transformation, the Washington Quad now features the campus’ first stormwater irrigation system. A 10,000 gallon cistern receives stormwater from the roofs of the surrounding buildings. A computer controlled system then directs the water to a drip irrigation system to the plant beds nearby. The system eliminates the need to water all the beds during warm periods and thereby also reduces costs. In addition to collecting stormwater, the project included other sustainable efforts such as:

  • replacing approximately 30 percent of concrete and asphalt with grass and other plantings;
  • increasing the number of replacement trees on the finished site by 33 percent, in addition to adding hundreds of new foundation plants and shrubs;
  • adding recycling and trash containers on the site;
  • salvaging and re-using some existing sidewalk brick;
  • recycling concrete, asphalt, and other construction waste (instead of dumping into local landfills);
  • planning for the mulch for new plant beds to come from the composted food waste taken from campus dining facilities; and
  • adding 12 new bicycle racks.

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Paint Branch Restoration

Over the years, Paint Branch has exhibited many problems typically associated with urban streams. This is often due to increased urban runoff and loss of adjacent forest and wetlands (riparian habitat), among other reasons. Ultimately, the stream changes, resulting in fish blockages, lack of aquatic habitat, and poor water quality. The Paint Branch Fish Passage and Stream Restoration Project was a large stream restoration project in which the US Army Corps of Engineers partnered with Prince George's County Department of Environmental Resources, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and the University of Maryland to restore approximately one mile of Paint Branch. Note that this reach of Paint Branch was very important as it connects to other recently completed stream restoration projects, thereby creating a long reach of Paint Branch that has been restored.

The project area is located in the southern portion of the Anacostia River subwatershed and starts where Paint Branch goes under State Route 193 (University Boulevard/Greenbelt Road) to the north and ends where Paint Branch goes under U.S. Route 1 (Baltimore Avenue) to the south, including several hundred linear feet where the stream is within the northeastern district of the university. The goal of the project is to create a stable stream condition and provide habitat for resident and migratory aquatic resources. The project addresses known fish blockages in Paint Branch and provides additional spawning habitat for river herring. Most of the work within the university was completed from 2012 through 2014, with work continuing upstream towards U.S. Route 1 in 2014. The project should be substantially complete by 2015.

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