West Campus Stormwater Study

Senior Cassidy Thompson recently presented her findings on the fate of rainwater that falls at Georgia College’s West Campus Village as part of her senior capstone for her BA in Geography. Cassidy used aerial imagery from airplanes and drones to acquire detailed spatial elevation data and high-resolution photography. Working with a Geographic Information System (GIS), Cassidy was able to create a virtual-3D model of West Campus so that she could extract surface water flowlines detailing the hundreds of pathways that surface runoff take following a stormwater event.

Stormwater flowlines for West Campus, highlighting impervious surface areas that are collected by retention ponds in orange. Over 80% of West Campus impervious area is managed using low-impact development approaches.

The detailed elevation data for West Campus was derived from the National Elevation Dataset, provided by the US Geological Survey. The high-resolution aerial imagery was captured by Cassidy and her geography professor, Dr. Mark Rochelo. They flew an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), commonly known as a drone, that collected a couple of hundred color photographs of the facility. Back in the GIS Teaching Lab, Cassidy and Dr. Rochelo ‘stitched’ the photos together using a virtual-3D rendering software called Pix4D to create very detailed images. Inside the GIS software (ESRI ArcGIS Pro), she extracted additional information about ditches, drains, and diversion canals. Cassidy spent a couple of wet afternoons walking around and watching the water run downhill to complete her field work!

Cassidy collecting field data.
Cassidy collecting field data from West Campus using a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver.

The purpose of this investigation is to support the university’s stormwater management plan, and in particular map the portions of West Campus that flow into one of the facility’s stormwater retention ponds. As part of an integrated low-impact development approach, the water is channeled into low, vegetated areas where it can slowly seep into the groundwater and reduce downstream flooding. Cassidy’s project proved that over 80% of the paved surfaces at West Campus, including rooftops, sidewalks, and parking lots, has flow paths that guide the stormwater into a qualified retention structure. The effort will help clean impurities out of the runoff, and will also qualify Georgia College for a substantial reduction in the stormwater management fees we pay to Baldwin County.

Poster produced by Cassidy Thompson as part of her senior capstone project for her geography degree.

Published by Doug R. Oetter

Professor of Geography at Georgia College & State University.

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