Ecosystem Services in Stormwater Detention Ponds

Keywords: Urban hydrology, Stormwater management, Green infrastructure, Ecosystem services

Current Students Working on this Project

Hannah Curtis

Research Topics

  • Urban Ecohydrology
  • Stormwater Management
  • Green Infrastructure
  • Ecosystem Services

Research Methods

  • Water level measurements using pressure transducers
  • Discharge measurements using velocimeter
  • Watershed modeling

Research Description

Urbanization increases the percentage of impervious surfaces in an area, increasing runoff from storms and often causing flooding. Stormwater detention ponds are designed to hold water from a storm and release it at a rate that prevents downstream flooding, which improves the water quality of the runoff as nutrients and sediment settle to the bottom of the ponds during the detention period. However, detention pond design creates highly variable water levels, or bounce, in the ponds. Various watershed characteristics affect the inflow into these stormwater detention ponds, and the design of the ponds in turn affects the water level and outflow discharge. These engineering choices, along with the watershed characteristics, influence the ecosystem services both in pond and downstream.


This project studies stormwater detention ponds in Madison over time to better understand the effects of watershed characteristics and pond design on environmental health and ecosystem services the pond provides, such as flood mitigation, water quality improvement, biodiversity, and habitat for aquatic species. This project uses pressure transducers to measure the stage of the ponds long-term, specifically the rapidly-changing stage during and after a storm. Additionally, the outflow of the ponds is measured, along with the topography around the ponds, and these measurements allow for estimation of the stormwater inflow. The goal of this project is to determine to what extent engineering design and watershed characteristics play a role on the bounce in stormwater detention ponds and from there determining if there is a direct or inverse relationship between these in-pond and downstream ecosystem services.

An image of the outflow from upper Manitou pond.
The outflow from upper Manitou pond, one of the study sites.
A smiling woman wearing a t-shirt and waders, standing knee-deep in a pond next to a T-post.
Hannah Curtis installing a pressure transducer to study the water levels in Manitou Pond.