At the first SEC Campus Water Matters Challenge, a team of UA students took home the gold.
Dr. Sagy Cohen, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography, said the main criteria for the competition was water sustainability. The students were also supposed to take climate change effects into consideration and make 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 helped 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,” 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 a participant in the project, said the team 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 their 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 its research with construction administration to be put towards potentially making the retention pond a reality. ■