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The Hocking River near the Richland Avenue bridge.
Sustainable Infrastructure Hub: Water

Sustainable Infrastructure Hub: Water

Pollution Prevention Week Image

Waterways in Athens, Ohio, and the larger Appalachian area, have been severely impacted by historic coal mining in the region. Recognizing this, Ohio University is dedicated to protecting and improving waterways and promoting the sustainable use of our water resources in the University’s operations. Faculty and staff at many colleges across the University perform significant research and remediation efforts in the watersheds surrounding Ohio University’s campus. The Office of Sustainability is committed to promoting initiatives that reduce impacts from stormwater and reduce potable water usage for irrigation of grounds. Ohio University celebrates the US EPA’s Pollution Prevention Week during the third week in September each year to raise awareness of the importance of minimizing pollution discharges into the Hocking River.

Sustainability Project Lab Logo

The Sustainability Project Laboratory is a database of sustainability-related project proposals. This resource hosts projects and project ideas that can be adopted by faculty, staff, and students for course projects, capstone or senior projects, theses, and more.

To find water related projects just type "water" into the search bar at the top of the Project Database on the Sustainability Project Laboratory page. 

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) is currently revising its Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS), which Ohio University uses to measure its sustainability efforts. You may view a draft of the proposed updates

2017 Water Infographic: all text and graphics are outlined in the page content.
The 2017 Water infographic outlining progress towards the 2011 sustainability benchmarks and new goals set for fiscal year 2026. Find the information in the tabs "Where we are now (2017): Progress toward 2011 Sustainability Plan," "Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #1," and "Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #2."

 

Accessibility View of Water Graphic

Where we are now (2017): Progress toward 2011 Sustainability Plan

  • Benchmark 13: Prohibit the installation of permanent irrigation systems that rely on potable water. Target met:  Prohibition exists ​

  • Benchmark 17: Institute storm water management plan. Target met: Plan exists

Water Graphics

STARS Water Comparison

AASHE STARS compares University programs across the nation in many different categories. Ohio University reports above the national average in water.

 

Ohio University Emissions Breakdown

At Ohio University, water makes up only a minute fraction of the carbon emissions at Ohio University, so it is not seen on the graphic representation. The carbon emissions of water usage total under 100 metric tons, which is the second lowest after grounds. Emissions from wastewater are the only water-based carbon emission reported, so the overall value could be higher.


Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #1

Goal 1: Work with communities to protect ground water quality and surface waters

  • Analyze all dry weather discharge
  • Increase wellhead emergency planning collaboration with the City of Athens to 1 wellfield collaboration per year

Potential Strategies​

  • Collaborate with faculty and community members to monitor & eliminate dry weather storm drain discharges​

  • Collaborate with City of Athens on wellfield protection regulations and emergency planning

Benefits of Goal #1 

  • Public health benefits
  • Increased enrollment

Costs of Goal #1

  • Staff time 
  • Maintenance costs

Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #2

Goal 2:  Reduce impacts from storm water by increasing gallons of storm water retained on campuses from 7 million gallons to 20 million gallons.

Potential Strategies​

  • Increase pervious groundcover, including native plantings​

  • Use rain barrels, cisterns, or ponds to capture & reuse water ​

  • Use low impact development (LID) strategies in site designs​

  • Collaborate with community partners to reduce impacts from the channelized section of the Hocking River​

  • Continue OHIO's Storm Water Management Program​

Benefits of Goal #2

  • Reduced operating expense
  • Reduced emissions
  • Increased flooding risk mitigation

Costs of Goal #2

  • Capital expenses
  • Maintenance costs

Moving Forward: 2017 Sustainability & Climate Action Plan Goal #3

Goal 3:  Reduce potable water usage and water used for irrigation

  • Reduce the number of kilo-gallons per weighted user (weighted users as defined by AASHE STARS) of potable water from10.1kgal per user to 9.6 kgal per user of potable water
  • Reduce the number kilo-gallons per acres of vegetated land (Vegetated grounds as reported to AASHE STARS ) of potable and non-potable water used for irrigation) from 170 kgal per acre to 160 kgal per acre of total water

Potential Strategies​

  • Increase native and xeriscaped plantings ​

    • Xeriscaping is the practice of designing landscapes to reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation

  • Use rain barrels or cisterns to capture and reuse water​

  • Consider capturing boiler water to use in cooling towers ​

  • Use low-flow fixtures in building renovations and construction where practical​

  • Create on-site recycling water system for at least one building on one campus

Benefits of Goal #3

  • Reduced operating expense
  • Reduced emissions

Costs of Goal #3

  • Capital expenses

Current Data

Graph showing the gradual decline of kilogallons per weighted campus user at Ohio University from FY12 to FY21.

Since FY16, there has been a gradual decrease in the amount of water used per person. Water usage significantly decreased after FY19. The most recent drop from 10.50 kgal in FY19 to 8.75 kgal in FY21 is not due to fewer campus users during the pandemic. This data has been normalized by the number of campus users, so each year can be compared.

 

Athens Campus Water Consumption Profile

Ohio University had been maintaining nearly the same amount of water (225,000 kgal) since FY12, but it has declined in recent years. The most probable cause of this reduction is the pandemic, as there were fewer water users on campus. FY22 is projected to use just over 200,000 kgal, as more students return to campus.

Initiatives

2022 Initiatives

Infrastructure Hub Supported InitiativesGoalsSCAP Alignment
Storm water management program: Joint program with City of Athens for EPA storm water permit Reduce storm water runoff and pollution. Maintain EPA permit requirements. Reduce impacts from storm water 
Water Saving Collaboration with Operations and Management: This collaboration helps flag any potential water waste by monitoring water bills for unusually high usageReduce water wasteReduce potable water usage and water use for irrigation 
Pollution Prevention: The Office of Sustainability meets regularly with the City of Athens to discuss pollution prevention methods. The Office also celebrates Pollution Prevention Week each year. View the Pollution Prevention Week schedule for 2022.Monitor pollution prevention and employ best practices to prevent pollution

Increase faculty, student, and community engagement across all hub themes. 

Reduce potable water usage and water use for irrigation 

2021 Initiatives

Infrastructure Hub Supported InitiativesGoalsSCAP Alignment
Sustainability Project Laboratory:  
Website of sustainability projects developed for curricular purposes 
Increase access to experiential learning and sustainability projects.  Increase faculty, student, and community engagement across all hub themes. 
Triple Bottom Line Cost Benefit Analysis (TBL CBA) Tool:  
Framework for assessing sustainability impacts. 
Create a tool to evaluate the impacts of projects across all hub themes on campus. Communication and decision-making tool for use in all hub themes. 
Water Usage: 
EcoChallenge project on preventing leaks 
Reduce water consumption by using a water leak detection system Reduce potable water usage and water use for irrigation 
Storm water management program:  
Joint program with City of Athens for EPA storm water permit 
Reduce storm water runoff and pollution. Maintain EPA permit requirements. Reduce impacts from storm water 

 

Sustainable Infrastructure Hub Related InitiativesSCAP Alignment
Lausche Plant water conservation: (Heating plant) 
Water treatment to reuse condensate 
Reduce potable water usage and water use for irrigation  

Stormwater Management

The University and the City of Athens have linked municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4). In December, 2016, the Ohio EPA sent notification to the City of Athens that it was required to apply for a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for its MS4. The University and the City wrote and approved a joint stormwater management program (PDF) in June, 2017, which addresses the 6 minimum control measures (MCMs) of the MS4 stormwater plan requirements.

One of these MCMs is Public Education and Outreach. As a component of the Public Education and Outreach MCM, the Athens County Soil and Water Conservation District (ASWCD) has created a stormwater webpage. As another component of the Public Education and Outreach MCM, the University, the City of Athens, and the Athens Soil and Water Conservation District hosts Pollution Prevention Week on the third week in September each year.

If you have questions, concerns, comments or complaints regarding stormwater, please contact Nathan Rath, Hazardous Materials Program Manager at rathn@ohio.edu. Additional information for stormwater or other compliance-related program can be found on the Environmental Health & Safety website.

One of the reasons proper storm water management is needed is to reduce flooding in local streams and waterways. Learn about the flooding history of Athens, OH and the Hocking River channelization project in this Athens News article.

Although water conservation and water quality are vital issues for a sustainable world, the 2011 version of the Ohio University Sustainability Plan only had two goals related to water: Benchmark 13 (Prohibit the installation of permanent irrigation systems that rely on potable water), and Benchmark 17 (Institute storm water management plan).  The 2021 Ohio University Sustainability & Climate Action Plan has a more robust set of goals, targets and proposed strategies. Ohio University no longer (since around 2013) installs permanent potable water irrigation systems when constructing new buildings on campus. Instead, ground keepers focus on landscaping using plants which are native to Southeastern Ohio. Native plants do not routinely require additional watering once they are established.

For tips on some simple ways to reduce your water usage, check out our sustainability tips.

Stormwater Best Management Practices on Campus

Schoonover Center Green Roof

The Green Roof on Schoonover was designed to engage students, faculty and the community in our sustainability mission. Schoonover renovations completed in 2013 included a rooftop that could support vegetation but the design and installation of the green roof was led by an interdisciplinary group of faculty. They acquired funding through the Academic Innovation Accelerator to create an educational landscape that offers opportunities for a variety of projects including educational outreach and creating virtual experiences on the rooftop. Faculty have been guiding graduate and undergraduate students in developing research and design projects in science, engineering and communications. The rooftop itself is about 2500 square feet of which almost 1,000 was seeded with a meadow mix. Equipment occupies some of the space to enable us to evaluate the impact of the green roof on stormwater runoff, water quality, carbon exchange, temperature and air quality.  Students are measuring plant, arthropod and soil microbial diversity in separate projects and comparing the Schoonover site to native plant gardens and other green roofs.

Schoonover Center Green Roof

Schoonover Green Roof, Fall 2020

How Can I Learn More About Green Roofs? 
Patton Hall Green Roof

Ohio University’s first green roof, installed in 2016, covers 2,000 square feet.  Tightly fitting plastic trays contain 16 varieties of low-growing sedums, one thyme and one allium species in six inches of planting medium. The planting medium is an engineered soil that is light weight and well-draining. The roof uses rainfall to conserve water and sustain plant life.

Patton Hall Green Roof, 2020

Patton Hall Green Roof, 2020

Ridges Cottage #38 Rain Garden

The rain garden at Ridges Cottage BLDG 38 was planned and installed by undergraduate student Emily Schafer 2016-2017, under supervision of Amy Mackey, Voinovich School Project Manager and Raccoon Creek Watershed Coordinator, funded by OEPA Clean Water Act Section 319 grant as part of the Appalachian Ohio Clean Watershed Initiative project.  The purpose of the rain garden is to be used as a demonstration site.  Emily produced materials that would help landowners site, plan, and build their own rain garden at their home. Plants purchased from Companion Plants: White Baptisia, Milkweed, Munsted plant, Coneflower, Culver’s Root, Red Lobelia, and Dwarf Crested Iris.

Ridges Cottage #38 rain garden

Photo provided by Jen Bowman, Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service

Child Development Center Rain Garden

The Child Development Center rain garden was planned and installed by graduate student Jennie Brancho 2018 under supervision of Nicole Kirchner, Voinovich School Project Manager. The project was funded by OEPA Clean Water Act Section 319 grant as part of the Appalachian Ohio Clean Watershed Initiative project.  This rain garden diverts a portion of rainwater from the front part of the CDC roof into the garden. The plants utilized in the garden were selected for environmental and educational benefits for the pre-school students to explore by site, smell, and tactile qualities. Lydia Ramlo (2020) conducted a Honors Tutorial undergraduate research thesis on the rain garden, looking at infiltration rates with Dr. Guy Riefler.

Child Development Center rain garden

Photo provided by Jen Bowman, Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service

Walter Fieldhouse Bioretention Basin
Walter Fieldhouse bioretention basin

Walter Fieldhouse Bioretention Basin

Patton Hall Bioswale
Patton Hall bioswale

Patton Hall bioswale, photo by Abbot Stevenson

Ecohouse Rain Barrels
Ecohouse rain barrels

EcoHouse Rain Barrels

Ohio University Golf Course Rain Collection Pond
Ohio University Golf Course rain collection pond

Golf Course Rain Collection Pond

Pigment Production from Acid Mine Drainage

Acid mine drainage is a serious issue in Appalachian coal country.  Fortunately, two Ohio University researchers, Guy Riefler (Civil Engineering) and John Sabraw (Art) have partnered with Michelle Shively at Rural Action to develop a process for turning acid mine drainage into a positive for the region.  For more information visit True Pigments

 

Surface water contamination from acid mine drainage - pigment production

Acid Mine Drainage Paint Pigment Production

The Ecohouse utilizes a number of water conservation efforts, including rain water sequestration and water efficient appliances. Visit the House Features section of the Ecohouse website to learn more!

Experts and Stakeholders on Water Quality

Ohio University Experts on Water Quality

NameContactPosition and Research Interests
Cody Petittpetittc@ohio.eduSustainable Infrastructure Hub Coordinator and Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering 
Sam Crowlcrowls1@ohio.eduDirector of Sustainability
Jesús Pagánpaganj@ohio.eduAssociate Professor of Engineering Technology & Management
Amy Lynchlyncha@ohio.edu 
 
Environmental planning practices; stormwater management; active transportation
Amy Mackey
mackey@ohio.edu

Project Manager of Energy and Environmental Programs

Biodiversity and biological health of streams; watershed management

Daniel Che che@ohio.edu

Associate Professor of Civil Engineering

Optimization models for sustainable water resources solutions in urban areas

Gregory Springerspringeg@ohio.edu 

Professor of Geological Sciences

Headwater streams

Jen Bowman bowmanj2@ohio.edu

Director of Environmental Programs

Biodiversity and biological health of streams; watershed management

Kelly Johnsonjohnsok3@ohio.edu

Associate Professor of Biological Sciences

Biological health of streams

Morgan Vis-Chiassonvis-chia@ohio.edu

Professor & Associate Dean, Graduate Programs, Research, and Faculty Development, College of Arts & Sciences 

Acid mine drainage, algae, stream nutrients, water pollution, and the effects of acid mine drainage on biodiversity

Nora Sullivan sullivn1@ohio.edu 

Environmental Specialist

Conservation; water quality 

R. Guy Riefler riefler@ohio.edu 

Professor & Chair of Civil Engineering

Sustainable water treatment

Tiao Changchang@ohio.edu 

Professor of Civil Engineering

Riverine water quality; hydrology and hydraulics

Xizchen Schenk xschenk@ohio.eduHydrology; climate variation on surface water and groundwater quality, quantity, and sustainability using field and numerical approaches
Eung Leeleee1@ohio.edu

Associate Professor & Chair of Geological Sciences

Contaminant hydrogeology; environmental monitoring and restoration

Natalie Kruse-Danielskrusen@ohio.edu

Professor in the Voinovich School

Oil and gas pollution detection and remediation; stream chemistry; AMD

Lei Wuwu1@ohio.edu

Associate Professor of Civil Engineering

PFAS remediation in ground water; reuse of waste tires 

Elaine Goetzgoetze@ohio.eduDirector of Energy Management & AVP Facilities Administration

Other Stakeholders & Experts on Water Quality

Name:Contact:Description:
Rural Actionhttps://ruralaction.org/our-work/watersheds/A nonprofit that focuses on public and environmental enrichment projects in Appalachian Ohio 
True Pigmentshttps://www.truepigments.com/get-to-know-us/contact-usA social enterprise that remediates polluted water by turning acid mine drainage into paint pigments