Integration of Education, Scholarship, and Service through Stormwater Management



Education, scholarship, and service are the cornerstones of academia. This paper describes how the design, construction, and research of stormwater control measures on the campus of Villanova University has been used to integrate these three facets of academic life. To date, eleven stormwater control measures have been constructed on Villanova's campus. This paper will focus on how the authors have successfully used three of these stormwater control measures, a constructed stormwater wetland, a rain garden, and a porous asphalt/pervious concrete comparison study, to fulfil the university's commitments to education, scholarship, and service.

Urbanization over the past few decades has increased urban stormwater runoff and pollution. The decrease in pervious areas caused by development increases stream bank erosion, impairs water quality, and decreases base flow. In addition, this increase in stormwater runoff is a leading contributor of non-point source pollution in urban areas. The natural hydrologic cycle is severely disrupted by development because the water that formerly infiltrated into the ground is now running off into nearby streams. The negative impact of development on streams has been documented by several researchers (e.g., Schueler 1994, 1995, and 1997; Paul and Meyer 2001; and Wang et al. 2001) the NRC (2008), and U.S. EPA (2009a). Furthermore, research indicated that the traditional practice of mitigating the peak flow solely through detention was inadequate (Traver and Chadderton 1983; McCuen and Moglen 1998; NRC 2008; and U.S. EPA 2009a).

Stormwater control measures, which may be classified as structural (e.g. infiltration basin) or non-structural (e.g. street cleaning), can mitigate peak flow while providing treatment. The use of stormwater control measures, also known as best management practices, has been increasing since the passage of the Clean Water Act and the development of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

This paper describes how Villanova University uses the study of stormwater control measures to integrate its three-fold missions of education, scholarship, and service.

Villanova University

Villanova University was founded in 1842 by the friars of the Order of St. Augustine. It is a comprehensive Roman Catholic institution that welcomes students of all faiths. The University, the College of Engineering, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering are well ranked by U.S. News and World Report. For example, in the most recent rankings amongst master's level universities, Villanova was ranked first in the Northeast and the College of Engineering was ranked ninth (U.S. News 2010).

The University is located approximately 10 miles west of Philadelphia. The University offers a wide variety of degree programs through four colleges: the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the College of Engineering, and the College of Nursing. There are approximately 6,000 undergraduates at Villanova; nearly 900 of those major in engineering.

The College of Engineering awards bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering awards approximately 50 Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil Engineering each year. The master's program is comprised of both full-time students, who typically write a thesis, and part-time students, who typically do not write a thesis. The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering awards approximately 20 masters degrees each year. The doctoral program at Villanova is a recent addition; to date two PhDs have been conferred by the college, one from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership

Villanova has been at the forefront of research on stormwater control measures since 2002 when the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership (VUSP) was formed as a partnership between Villanova University's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP), engineering firms, and municipal engineers. The mission of the VUSP is “to advance the evolving sustainable stormwater management field and to foster the development of public and private partnerships through research on innovative stormwater control measures, directed studies, technology transfer, and education.” The research and directed studies conducted by the VUSP emphasize sustainable stormwater management planning, implementation, and evaluation. The goal of technology transfer is to provide tools, guidance, and education for stormwater professionals. The Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership seeks to promote cooperation amongst the private, public, and academic sectors to satisfy the mission of the Partnership.

Dissemination of the Work of the VUSP

The authors seek to educate not only our students, both graduate and undergraduate, but also practitioners and the public. Consequently, the results of the research conducted under the direction of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership are disseminated widely to ensure that all interested parties are able to access the information. The dissemination of this work is classified into five main categories: tours, web, trade publications, professional conferences, and archival journals.


Every year hundreds of prospective students and their families, current students, Villanova faculty and staff members, conference and short course attendees, and neighbors tour the suite of stormwater control measures on Villanova's campus (Figure 1). Often, these are guided tours staffed by project investigators (faculty and graduate students). Signs are placed at each of our storm water control measures communicating the research being conducted at each site because some people conduct self-guided tours.

Figure 1.

Villanova student giving a tour of the infiltration trench best management practices.


The results of our work are posted on the VUSP website ( Each best management practice that is studied has its own website (Figure 2). The VUSP site attracts world wide attention and has received over 2,500 “hits” in the past 8 months.

Figure 2.

VUSP website

Trade Publications and Magazines

Trade publications are an excellent way to reach practitioners and contractors while magazines provide a forum to reach a wider, perhaps non-technical, audience. Our work has been featured in Stormwater (Traver et al. 2005 and Traver et al. 2004), which is published eight times a year and has 25,500 subscribers. Our work has also been discussed in Earth magazine, which is published monthly (Beeland 2009).

Professional Conferences

The results of the work conducted under the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership are always presented at the bi-annual Pennsylvania Stormwater Management Conference held on Villanova's campus. Hundreds of stormwater professionals attend this event in person and via webcast. In addition, the faculty and graduate students involved in the VUSP have a strong presence at the Environmental and Water Resources Institute of ASCE annual conference and other conferences related to stormwater and low impact development.

Archival Journals

Archival journals are the best way to reach fellow academics and practitioners. The results of the work conducted under the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership has been published in the Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, the Journal of the American Water Resources Association, the Journal of Environmental Engineering, the Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, and Water Environment Research.

Stormwater Control Measures on Campus

The first stage of the integration of education, scholarship, and service through stormwater research was the decision to use the University as a test site. Fortunately, the commitment to low impact/sustainable development is university-wide so the infrastructure changes have been well supported by the entire university community. The University has constructed multiple storm water control measures on campus including wetlands, green roofs, pervious pavements, and rain gardens; a map of the campus showing the various stormwater control measures is included as Figure 3. All of the stormwater control measures constructed on campus have been retrofits and were not required by the township. Furthermore, Villanova's facilities management office seeks to support the educational and research activities of the University, so they have become a key partner in every project (Traver, et al. 2004; 2005). All of Villanova's stormwater control measures are open to the public and, as noted earlier, VUSP staff conducts several campus tours of these best management practices each year. These tours are used as an opportunity to educate the public, including facilities personnel, on the importance of proper stormwater management.

Figure 3.

Map of stormwater BMPs on Villanova University's campus.

While the sustainability ethic of the University was strong at the start, the implementation of new experimental technologies always requires some convincing. The first project was the conversion of a stormwater detention basin to a wetland in 1999. As the site was not part of what was considered buildable area at the time, changing the basin configuration was not an issue. Grant funding provided some validation to both the University and the township regulatory officials. By bringing the facilities personnel in at the beginning of the design phase, and listening to and addressing their concerns about maintenance and operations, they quickly became a partner with an interest in the project's success. At all times Villanova's facilities office was recognized both on and off campus for their contribution. The University soon recognized the role these stormwater control measures played in how the University was viewed by its neighbors, making the next project easier. For each project the same model of partnership with a special emphasis on including maintenance and operational concerns at the beginning has been key. This has progressed to the point that the University seeks out green infrastructure stormwater control measures as part of their normal construction process, and contacts the faculty when they have ideas of where to add a green roof or rain garden.

The focus of the accompanied field research on the campus stormwater control measures has been on how these management measures operate and perform, and the resulting lessons learned about design and maintenance. A secondary, but equally important, aspect is the introduction of these facilities to the public and profession so their value and functions are recognized. Three of the stormwater control measures under investigation (Constructed Stormwater Wetlands, Rain Garden, and the Porous Asphalt/Pervious Concrete Comparison Study) at Villanova will be more closely examined herein to illustrate how these facilities integrate Villanova's commitments to education, service, and research. At both the graduate and undergraduate level, research and education are intertwined. Campus stormwater management has been extensively used in senior-level capstone design projects. For example, in 2006 Villanova University seniors evaluated stormwater control measures for a new law school building on campus. Many of their designs were used in the construction of the building, which opened in Fall 2009. Graduate students write theses to partially fulfil their educational requirements and undergraduates often perform research for pay or for credit. The educational cycle is completed when students co-author journal articles.

Constructed Stormwater Wetlands

The first stormwater control measure built on Villanova's campus was the constructed stormwater wetland (Figure 4). This facility was constructed in 1999 with the help of funds from a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection 319 Grant. An existing stormwater detention basin was converted into an extended detention wetland best management practice. The stormwater wetland treats runoff from a 19 hectare (47 acre) site that includes 11 impervious hectares (27 acres). The contributing watershed forms the headwaters of the Mill Creek watershed, listed as medium priority on the degraded watershed list. The project has been published as an EPA 319 Success Story (U.S. EPA 2009b). This site is currently under renewed study, with a grant from EPA Section 319 to reconfigure the stormwater wetland. To date, five master's theses have been written about research conducted on this site and two are in progress. The titles of the theses written about this site are:

Figure 4.

Constructed stormwater wetlands.

  • • Pollutant removal efficiency of a mature constructed wetland over the course of a year;
  • • Stormwater total hydrocarbon and hydrologic mass balance and a chloride mass balance of the Villanova University stormwater wetland;
  • • An examination of the effect of plant density on Low Reynolds number flow in a wetland;
  • • Pollutant Removal Efficiency and Seasonal Variation of a Stormwater Wetland BMP;
  • • Pollutant removal efficiency of a stormwater wetland best management practice during baseflow and storm events;
  • • Statistical analysis of modeled constructed stormwater wetland performance (in progress); and
  • • Groundwater movement in a constructed stormwater wetland (in progress).

Undergraduates have been involved in the research performed on this site. To date, nine undergraduates have worked on this wetland. The topics researched by undergraduates have been:

  • • Thermal enrichment;
  • • Analysis of the nitrogen cycle;
  • • Retention time;
  • • Watershed delineation;
  • • Water quality analysis; and
  • • Mechanisms for nutrient reduction.

The research conducted by these students is posted on the Villanova Urban Storm Water Partnership website and forms the basis of conference papers, trade publications, and journal articles, thus fulfilling the mission of scholarship. To date, ten conference papers and two journal articles (one is in press) have been written about this wetland. Students have served as the co-authors on all of these papers. The constructed stormwater wetlands helps Villanova be a “good neighbor” to Radnor Township in several ways. The wetlands help control stormwater runoff entering the Mill Creek, thus improving the creek's quality. The wetlands are also often used recreationally by the citizens of Radnor Township; the site is used for strolls, dog walking, and nature watching as it provides a habitat for many birds, fish, and amphibians.

Rain Garden

The rain garden (also known as the bioinfiltration traffic island) was constructed in 2001 using funds from the PA Department of Environmental Protection Growing Greener fund (Figure 5). An existing traffic island was retrofitted to infiltrate the runoff generated by storms of 38 mm (1.5 in) or less from the adjacent parking areas. The rain garden has a drainage area to storm water control measure area ratio of 10:1, which is twice as large as the 5:1 ratio recommended by the PA DEP (2006). The runoff captured by this stormwater control measure is infiltrated into the ground water, thus recharging the water table and reducing peak storm flows to the Darby Creek.

Figure 5.

Rain garden.

To date, three master's theses have been written about research conducted on this site. The titles of the theses written about this site are:

  • • The observed effects of stormwater infiltration on groundwater;
  • • A soil profile characterization of a bioinfiltration best management practice; and
  • • Characterization study of a bioinfiltration stormwater best management practice.

To date, two undergraduates have worked on this site. The topics researched by these undergraduates have been:

  • • Fate of metals and phosphate in the infiltration bed; and
  • • Toxicity of metals.

The results of this research have been disseminated widely. To date, seven conference papers, two trade publications, and six (three in press or under review) journal articles have been written about the rain garden. Students have served as the co-authors on more than half of these papers.

This site serves the community by providing a place for wildlife, such as butterflies, birds, and amphibians, as it beautifies the western part of Villanova's campus. In addition, it improves the quality of the Darby Creek for our downstream neighbors.

Porous Asphalt/Pervious Concrete Comparison Study

One of the more recent additions to the suite of stormwater stormwater control measures on Villanova's campus is the porous asphalt/pervious concrete comparison study (Figure 6). The site, which was constructed in 2007 with funding from RMC Research and Education Foundation, Prince George's (MD) County, and PA Department of Environmental Protection, consists of two adjacent 9 m by 15 m areas of each pavement type underlain by a stone bed that is large enough to store the runoff generated from the adjoining conventional pavement area from the 2-year storm. The overflow from this site is discharged to the stormwater wetlands described previously in this paper.

Figure 6.

Composite photo of the porous asphalt/pervious concrete comparison site.

To date, two master's thesis has been written about research conducted on this site. The titles of the theses written about this site are:

  • • Water quality comparison of pervious concrete and porous asphalt products for infiltration best management practices; and
  • • A side by side water quality comparison of pervious concrete and porous asphalt and an investigation into the effects of underground infiltration basins on stormwater temperature.

To date, one undergraduate has worked on this site. This student performed a bench-top study of the leaching of hydrocarbons from the two pavements. As this is one of Villanova's more recent additions, the results are currently in the process of being published.


Education, scholarship, and service are the core of university life. Professors are constantly trying to balance their commitments to these three missions. At Villanova, the faculty involved in the Villanova Urban Storm Water Partnership use the design, construction, and study of stormwater control measures to integrate the three components of university life.


We would like to thank the agencies that have provided the funding and support necessary to design, construct, study, and maintain the storm water control measures described in this paper: PA Department of Environmental Protection (Growing Greener and 319), U.S. EPA, Prince George's County (MD), RMC Research and Education Foundation, William Penn Foundation, and Villanova University. We would also like to thank the many graduate and undergraduate students that have worked on these studies over the years – they have made all of this possible.

Author Bios and Contact Information

Andrea Welker is an associate professor and associate director of the VUSP. She is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Pennsylvania. Dr. Welker's recent research projects have included a side-by-side comparison study of porous asphalt and pervious concrete and the evaluation and restoration of an eighty year old infiltration pit on Villanova's campus. She can be reached at 610-519-4959 or at

Bridget Wadzuk is an assistant professor. Her specialty is in water resources and numerical modeling of systems. Dr. Wadzuk's recent research projects have included diffusion within a constructed wetland under baseflow conditions, quantifying and modelling the nutrient reduction within a constructed wetland and the redesign and construction of an existing constructed wetland. Dr. Wadzuk can be reached at

Robert Traver is a professor and director of the Villanova Urban Stormwater Partnership. He is a registered Professional Engineer in the state of Pennsylvania. His recent research has been focused on green infrastructure and he was a committee member contributing heavily to the NRC report Urban Stormwater in the United States (2008). Dr. Traver can be reached at