Stormwater Evaluation

Stormwater Management Sites Can Be Evaluated Remotely With NASA Images

Research conducted at Morgan State University used geospatial technology (GST) with remote sensing and images from NASA to evaluate potential sites for stormwater management for highway runoff.A stormwater managment basin is hampered by vegetation

Stormwater runoff collects different pollutants such as suspended solids, heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and sediments, and carries them into local waterways. Older stormwater management basins can be retrofitted to reduce such pollutants, but they must function successfully. GST allows for remote examination of the sites.A failed stormwater management site along U.S. Route 1.

The research project, "Highway Runoff Stormwater Management Potential (HRSMP) Site Characterization Using NASA Public Domain Imagery," was sponsored by the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The project developed methodology that characterized potential sites and used field activities and groundtruthing - confirming on the ground what the GST revealed - to better understand the land use and land cover at the sites. Dr. Frederick Wilson, a research scientist and lecturer at Morgan, was the principal investigator.
To evaluate the sites, images from the NASA Public Domain databases were acquired through the United States Geological Survey and processed and analyzed using computer programs with special resolution, Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM), and Landsat 8 (OLI_IRS). Researchers examined sites that the State Highway Administration had ranked as good, fair, satisfactory and poor.

The research revealed that vegetation affected the performance of stormwater facilities; sites that ranked poorly showed an excessive overgrowth of vegetation such as high brush and trees. However, researchers learned that in order to determine the exact role vegetation played, they would need images with higher spatial resolution - such as IKONOS multispectral images with a 4-meter spatial resolution - since the Landsat images did not allow for individual stormwater management site analyses. IKONOS images are expensive, but the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, might lower the cost of higher-resolution images in the future, making more detailed analyses cost-effective.

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