Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 167, Issue 1, pp 123-138

First online:

A Field Evaluation of Rain Garden Flow and Pollutant Treatment

  • Michael E. DietzAffiliated withDepartment of Natural Resources Management and Engineering, University of Connecticut Email author 
  • , John C. ClausenAffiliated withDepartment of Natural Resources Management and Engineering, University of Connecticut

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Rain gardens have been recommended as a best management practice to treat stormwater runoff. However, no published field performance data existed on pollutant removal capabilities. Replicated rain gardens were constructed in Haddam, CT, to capture shingled-roof runoff. The gardens were sized to store the first 2.54 cm (1 inch) of runoff. Influent, overflow and percolate flow were measured using tipping buckets and sampled passively. Precipitation was also measured and sampled for quality. All weekly composite water samples were analyzed for total phosphorus (TP), total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN), ammonia-nitrogen (NH3-N), and nitrite+nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N). Monthly composite samples were analyzed for copper (Cu), lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn). Redox potential was measured using platinum electrodes. Poor treatment of NO3-N, TKN, organic-N, and TP in roof runoff was observed. Many Cu, Pb and Zn samples were below detection limit, so statistical analysis was not performed on these pollutants. The only pollutants significantly lower in the effluent than in the influent were NH3-N in both gardens and total-N in one garden. The design used for these rain gardens worked well for overall flow retention, but had little impact pollutant concentrations in percolate. These results suggest that if an underdrain is not connected to the stormwater system, high flow and pollutant retention could be achieved with the 2.54 cm design method.


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