By competing in the national Campus RainWorks Challenge, an international student team at Mississippi State is learning to address the worldwide challenge of sustainably through stormwater management.
Seven students representing the Far East, Middle East and Latin America, as well as Mississippi, Alabama and Texas, are working to develop stormwater-management strategies for the university. MSU's Office of Sustainability, the MSU-based Mississippi Water Resources Research Institute and the landscape architecture, graphic design and civil and environmental engineering departments are working together in the competition sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"Look at the cross-section of these students: from Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America and the United States," said Jeremiah Dumas, MSU's associate director of sustainability. "These students come from four different directions across the world, and they will be able to take what they've learned to those places."
"Stormwater management is being looked at globally, and these kids are applying what they've learned to real issues. This is a fundamental step in helping them get ready," he added.
Challenge participants include two landscape architecture master's degree candidates from China and two from Turkey, along with an El Salvadoran civil engineering doctoral candidate who recently became a U.S. citizen. The Mississippian is a senior civil engineering major, the Alabamian is a landscape architecture master's candidate and the Texan is an art major with a concentration in graphic design.
Cory Gallo, assistant professor of landscape architecture, said learning how to clean rainwater will be a critical skill for civil engineers and landscape architects to master because stormwater runoff has increasing consequences for the state, region, nation and world.
"We're seeing many approaches to managing stormwater are being copied from region to region," Gallo said. "Because of human development, when rain falls in urban areas, it's dirtier, it's hotter, there's more of it and it's moving faster. We're trying to mitigate that to help protect our streams, waterways and natural resources."
Gnaneswar Gude, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, said two of his students-- an upper-level undergraduate and a graduate student--are teaming with Gallo's landscape architecture design course to create a practical plan that incorporates skill sets of both academic disciplines.
"My students will be looking at what numbers we need to crunch to get design value for the site," Gude said. "What is the rainfall intensity and frequency to estimate the amount of rainwater? What is the capacity of the soil?
"The landscape architecture part is going to add aesthetic value and create an infiltration system," he continued. "The whole idea is to keep the stormwater on-site so we have less pollution."
Wayne Wilkerson, director of the water research institute, said addressing stormwater runoff, whether sites are large or small, is an important environmental responsibility.
"At the end of the day, it's all connected, so what we do here impacts the fisheries in the Gulf (of Mexico)," he said. "Projects on this campus have the potential for impacting the fisheries and the beaches."
Though the MSU team developed designs for two challenge categories—master plan and site design--only one will be formally entered by EPA's Dec. 13 challenge deadline. The students will submit a proposal for the area in front of the State Fountain Bakery, in the center of campus. The site design includes an amphitheater, outdoor seating and art features, in addition to stormwater management facilities.
Overall, managing stormwater is an important aspect of the ever-evolving campus master plan, and Dumas said he looks forward to seeing levels of the students' work implemented.