Stormwater Treatment With a Different Face

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Managing stormwater is usually a utilitarian function. Occasionally it can rise to an art.

A number of facilities combine stormwater treatment with another role, such as providing green space or recreational facilities for the public at large. One of these is Indianapolis’s Cultural Trail, an 8-mile walking, jogging, and biking path connecting various downtown areas. It includes many green infrastructure features—stormwater planters, rain gardens—as well as $2 million of outdoor artwork.

Another is Santa Monica, CA’s Urban Runoff Recycling Facility, known as the SMURRF, which treats dry-weather runoff. Opened in 2000, it had 12% of its budget set aside for architectural, artistic, and educational elements. These include tile murals and mosaics, innovative architecture, display areas for educational exhibits to explain the facility’s function, and special lighting. You can see a virtual tour of the SMURRF here.

Another not-so-new facility in Portland, OR, is the Portland Japanese Garden. Although the original garden, which covers about 5 ½ acres, has been around for more than 50 years, the site has recently been expanded with new visitors’ amenities and stormwater treatment facilities. You can see a video of it here, in which the lead gardener talks about the challenges of balancing engineering requirements with aesthetics. 

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