The impact of stormwater source-control strategies on the (low) flow regime of urban catchments

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Stormwater management strategies increasingly recognise the need to emulate the pre-development flow regime, in addition to reducing pollutant concentrations and loads. However, it is unclear whether current design approaches for stormwater source-control techniques are effective in restoring the whole flow regime, and in particular low flows, towards their pre-development levels. We therefore modelled and compared a range of source-control stormwater management strategies, including some specifically tailored towards enhancing baseflow processes. The strategies were assessed based on the total streamflow volume and three low flow metrics. Strategies based on harvesting tanks showed much greater volume reduction than those based on raingardens. Strategies based on a low flow rate release, aimed at mimicking natural baseflow, failed to completely restore the baseflow regime. We also found that the sensitivity of the low flow metrics to the proportion of catchment treated varied amongst metrics, illustrating the importance of metrics selection in the assessment of stormwater strategies. In practice, our results suggest that realistic scenarios using low flow release from source-control techniques may not be able to fully restore the low flow regime, at least for perennial streams. However, a combination of feasibly-sized tanks and raingardens is likely to restore the baseflow regime to a great extent, while also benefitting water quality through the retention and filtration processes.

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