This project explores the impact of changes to precipitation and temperature on the hydrology of urban spaces, and the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems connected to them directly or indirectly through infrastructure. Specifically, we are investigating relationship between climatological conditions and water/wastewater/stormwater infrastructure, with a focus on impacts of climate conditions on water and wastewater treatment plant performance, and the use of various green infrastructure (GI) strategies as a climate change adaptation strategy (through its role in reducing the energy and GHG emissions associated with less stormwater, and facilitating urban evapotranspiration). Using life cycle assessment (LCA) tools, we are also investigating the environmental efficiency of green infrastructure technologies to verify consistency with expected environmental performance under different climate conditions, in order to quantify the payback time required to compensate for the environmental costs related to the material required for GI installation.
Initial results: A preliminary analysis (Spatari et al., 2011 in press) suggests that a Low Impact Development (LID) green infrastructure (GI) strategy can help reduce annual energy consumption and avoid greenhouse gas emissions. On the scale of a city block, the annual savings are small compared to the energy and greenhouse gas intensity of the LID materials, resulting in slow environmental payback times. However, if LID strategies are implemented throughout an urban watershed, they can make an important contribution to energy cost savings at municipal water pollution control facilities, and help reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
Investigators: Franco Montalto, Charles Haas, Sabrina Spatari, Patrick Gurian, Alex Waldman, Kimberly DiGiovanni, Maria Raquel Catalano de Sousa, Ziwen Yu
Leveraged funding: NSF Graduate Student Fellowship (DiGiovanni), Drexel’s Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) Program