Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Amanda Chudow makes this connection here.

The news entitled, “Green Bay has a $150 million stormwater problem” was published on February 5, 2016 by the Green Bay Press Gazette. Storm water is an important issue in both the hydrology and the hydraulics domains because it combines water quality issues with conveyance issues. This article discusses the flooding and sewer backup issues associated with storms that are becoming more prevalent in the city as the aging storm water sewer system continues to break down. Water levels in the Fox River, East River, and Bay of Green Bay, where most of the Green Bay’s storm water drain to, have risen several feet from the levels they were at when the storm sewer system was built. Some outfalls are underwater due to the water level rise, not allowing the pipes to drain fully. This past December was the wettest on record for Green Bay according to the National Weather Service, so storm water is becoming more serious in the minds of residents. In December alone, there were 125 complaints of flooding and sewer backup, mostly from six low-lying neighborhoods. People have been abandoning their homes in this area as water pours into their homes. The current system can only handle 3.8 inches of rain in 24 hours, which is the 10 year storm for the area. In a portion of the city that used to be the town of Preble, it can barely handle the two year storm, 2.5 inches in 24 hours. The system does not need updating, but total replacement with larger drain pipes, more pump stations, and more annual maintenance. The city currently funds upgrades and annual maintenance out of its $5.2 million storm water utility budget, which comes from Green Bay residents as part of their quarterly water bill. To sufficiently maintain the storm sewer system, the storm water fee would need to double or triple. There is hope that some improvements will be done by local businesses when they do construction, so all of the funding will not have to come from the city. An example of this would be the underground storm water storage basin roughly the size of a football field that the Green Bay Packers are planning to install later this year. There are many other cities in North America, including Toronto and Memphis, TN that have or are facing similar problems with storm water (Kessler, 2011), including Syracuse (Mahoney, Coburn, & Legnetto, 2010).  There were a few items missing from the article that would be of importance to this sort of water resources engineering issue. There was no mention of any treatment of the storm water or quality of the water before it enters the rivers and bay.  The article also did not mention if the city is considering any green infrastructure, like Syracuse has through Save the Rain, to reduce runoff values and delay the water reaching the sewer system right away during and after the storm (Mahoney, Coburn, & Legnetto, 2010).

This WRE issue is also a societal issue since communities across the continent face the same problem as Green Bay trying to keep up with a changing climate with aging infrastructure. This is an environmental problem because storm water is dirty and affects wildlife and recreation. Green Bay seems to recognize that water quality is an issue with storm water upon further research because there are quality standards in Chapter 30 of the Green Bay Municipal Code for storm water, including that 80% of suspended solids must be removed before it can be discharged to the bay. Also Chapter 31 of the same code says “The City of Green Bay finds that polluted storm water runoff from lands within the City of Green bay has a significant impact upon water resources and the health, safety, and general welfare of the community”. It states that specifically, polluted storm water runoff can diminish the capacity of water bodies to support fish, aquatic life, recreational, and water supply uses by increasing loadings of nutrients and other urban pollutants. Green Bay also recognizes that storm water can alter wetland communities by changing the hydrology by increasing pollutant concentrations and reduce the quality of groundwater (City Attorney’s Office, 2016). Koch et al agree that storm water runoff severely degrades downstream water bodies by carrying sediment and contaminants into streams. This changes the shapes of the streams and reduces biodiversity. Management practices that slow down and treat the storm water, like the green infrastructure in Syracuse, are best for limiting detrimental effects.



Figure 1: Rain caused street flooding on the 300 block of S. Maple Avenue in 2010. (Source: USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)


Figure 2: Six areas identified as having priority needs for storm-water management improvements. (Source: Karl Ebert/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)


URL: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/news/local/2016/02/05/green-bay-has-150-million-storm-water-problem/79777206/



City Attorney’s Office. City Of Green Bay Munipal Code. Green Bay, WI; updated 2016.

Kessler R. Stormwater Strategies: Cities Prepare Aging Infrastructure for Climate Change. Environ Health Perspect Environmental Health Perspectives 2011; 119 (12):A514–A519. Available at: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/119-a514/. Accessed February 16, 2016.

Koch B, Febria C, Gevrey M, Wainger L, Palmer M. Nitrogen Removal by Stormwater Management Structures: A Data Synthesis. Journal Of The American Water Resources Association [serial online]. December 1, 2014;50(6):1594-1607. Available from: Scopus®, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 16, 2016.

Office of the Environment, Mahoney JM, Coburn D, Legnetto PJ. Stormwater Management Program (SWMP) Plan. Syracuse, New York: Onondaga County; 2010.

Rodewald A. Green Bay has $150 million stormwater problem. Green Bay Press Gazette 2016. Available at: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/story/news/local/2016/02/05/green-bay-has-150-million-storm-water-problem/79777206/. Accessed February 5, 2016.