From the May 2017 Desktop News | The first SEC Campus Water Matters Challenge was held at Mississippi State University in March, and an interdisciplinary team of University of Alabama students took home the gold.
The Campus Water Matters Challenge was created to encourage students to create solutions to water sustainability problems by using campus infrastructure projects to explore possible ways of enabling positive water use. Seven teams competed, including the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, and Auburn University, which came in second place.
Dr. Sagy Cohen, assistant professor of geography, said the main criteria for the competition included focusing on water sustainability, taking climate change effects into consideration, and making sure the project was linked to current or planned developments at the university.
To adhere to these criteria, Cohen said the students worked with associate vice president for construction administration at UA Tim Leopard to pick a project they could thoroughly research and contribute to. Through Leopard, the team was given the chance to help solve an issue with floodwater which gathers on the Paul Bryant Drive end of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“Whenever it rains, the intersection behind the stadium floods, so the university has been trying to come up with a solution,” graduate student and team member Dinuke Munasinghe said. “Right now, the water drains directly into the Black Warrior River. Our plan is for a 5 million gallon retention pond which will use an autonomous system to slowly release the water into the river, or save it for other use.”
Mariam Khanam, a graduate student studying geography and participant in the project, said the team of students tested a plan for a large underground retention pond by conducting simulations measuring rainfall, accounting for possible climate change, and taking into account potential for filtering the water before it is used. Based on its research, the team believes the retention pond is a completely feasible plan and that the water it collects could even be used as extra water for non-potable use in the stadium on game days.
“I think the fact we were very tied into a university development project set us apart from other teams,” Cohen said. “From what I could see, we were the only ones who really made an analysis of climate change, and I think the simulations we did were pretty impressive to the judges. We were given well defined guidelines and we made sure we followed them very, very closely.”
The team shared all its research with construction administration to be put towards potentially making the retention pond a reality.