Strategies for Urban Stormwater Wetlands

Managing stormwater is a key problem in securing urban resiliency and meeting water quality standards. According to the EPA, stormwater is the only growing source of water pollution, which already impairs 13% of the nation’s rivers. More intense storms in the future will exacerbate flooding, which cost the United States $2.4 billion in 2014. In arid cities, stormwater is now seen as an opportunity to alleviate water scarcity, expected in 40 states within the next 10 years.

Although constructed wetlands and detention basins have been built for stormwater management for a long time, their design has been largely driven by hydrologic performance. Bringing together fluid dynamics, landscape architecture, and urban planning, this research project explored how these natural treatment systems can be designed as multi-functional urban infrastructure to manage flooding, improve water quality, enhance biodiversity, and create amenities in cities. We used Los Angeles and Houston as case studies.

Our methodology centered on digital modeling combined with fluid dynamics numerical simulations and physical testing that allowed us to assess the hydraulic performance of the new designs.

This work was funded by the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS).


May 01, 2018

New plan to return a large portion of East London's Lea Valley to wetlands. 

Wetlands, London
May 01, 2018

New analysis suggests that the standards used to map flood zones and design flood control in Houston do not capture the true area of stormwater damage.

Flood plains, Houston, Stormwater
Oct 27, 2016

With strong storms, Houston's water systems receives large amounts of pollution from sewer overflows.

Houston, Stormwater, Pollution
Oct 27, 2016

Engineers are investigating how wetlands can remove pharmaceuticals and chemicals in water in Orange County.

Constructed Wetlands, Pollution, California
Oct 27, 2016

The Ramsar Convention's World Wetlands Day 2016 focuses on wetlands for sustainable livelihoods.

Wetlands, Ecosystem Services, Conversation
Fall 2016