Graham Sustainability Institute

Managing Cleveland's Stormwater through Green Design

July 2016

Hundreds of U.S. cities, with a combined population of about 40 million people, have water infrastructure where stormwater and human sewage mingle in the same network of underground pipes. In a combined sewer system, rainwater typically enters storm drains, mixes with sewage, and is directed to a water treatment plant. The treated water is then discharged into a nearby stream, river, or lake. Occasionally, an influx of snowmelt or heavy rainfall can overwhelm treatment plants. As a result, untreated rainwater and sewage is released, along with a host of industrial pollutants, pathogens, and flushed debris, into the nearest water body. These events are known as combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

Cleveland, OH has long struggled with a number of urban stormwater issues, which directly impact the Lake Erie ecosystem. In 2011, the EPA, the State of Ohio, and the City of Cleveland signed an agreement outlining a plan to bring the City of Cleveland into compliance with federal Clean Water Act standards. Although sustainable energy systems are being installed in the region, there is a severe lack of technical expertise regarding the maintenance and repair of energy systems, resulting in inefficiencies and shortened system lifecycles. Without ensuring the productivity of new sustainable energy systems, the region will likely continue to rely on diesel fuel generators.

This fact sheet is part of the Dow Global Impact Series, which provides a glimpse into the interesting, and often rewarding work of graduate students engaged in the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program. Each summary in the series is based on a report produced by student teams, and highlights key issues, their approach and project outcomes. Videos provide student perspectives about the Fellows Program.

Keywords: Cleveland, OH, stormwater, combined sewer overflows

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