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New tool allows municipalities to apply modelling to stormwater mitigation options

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Stormwater scores are divided into three categories: social, economic and environmental. The Baseline Scenario’s co-benefit score is zero across all categories because no new technologies were added. The Rain Garden Scenario’s co-benefit scores, in all three categories, are higher than the Detention Basin Scenario’s scores. The Rain Garden Scenario is higher in cost; however, there are additional co-benefits to installing rain gardens in the project area compared to detention basins. Credit: CLASIC case study.

A new online screening tool allows municipalities to make planning decisions for green and grey stormwater infrastructure management scenarios through a life cycle cost framework and other modelling.

Funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and released by the Water Research Foundation, the free CLASIC tool can accommodate regional and scale variations to support integrated planning at a municipal scale. Users can create scenarios of stormwater control measures, including climate and land use projections to assess life cycle costs, performance, and co-benefits associated with those scenarios, but its creators say the tool is not intended for the optimization of design.

Dr. Peter Grevatt, CEO of the Water Research Foundation, said that CLASIC (short for community-enabled life cycle analysis of stormwater infrastructure costs) is the culmination of a multi-year effort from stakeholders.

“We are excited to release the CLASIC tool as we kick off Water Week and focus on water infrastructure as a national priority,” announced Grevatt.

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The cloud-based CLASIC tool is fully interfaced with GIS and links with national databases. Users have the option to automatically upload data from national databases (e.g., census, national land cover database, PRISM climate database, digital elevation models, etc.) or to upload their own data sets. Users can select from a mixture of green and grey stormwater practices, like rain gardens, infiltration trenches, permeable pavement, green roofs, storage vaults, wet ponds and stormwater harvesting. The tool then allows users to build and compare multiple stormwater infrastructure options and enables simulation of various climate scenarios. The CLASIC outputs are displayed in a set of charts, graphs and tables that can be analyzed and printed.

The tool also allows users to prioritize specific social, environmental and economic co-benefits, such as building energy efficiency, mental health impacts, or groundwater flow increase. Users can also set targets for variables like pollutant reduction, runoff reduction, or cost.

With stricter stormwater ordinances to reduce peak flows off-site, many municipalities are faced with financial restrictions when making new infrastructure plans. Research engineers from the University of Mississippi say they used the CLASIC tool to make decisions about the installation of grey and green stormwater infrastructure in the Mississippi City of Oxford. They compared two scenarios that use different sized water storage vaults and rain gardens for runoff. The tool helped them understand the most cost-efficient option and what kind of results they could expect.

CLASIC was funded through a $2.5-million grant under National Priorities: Life Cycle Costs of Water Infrastructure Alternatives.

Interested stakeholders can register for an EPA webinar scheduled for May 26 that will demonstrate the free CLASIC tool and provide answers to frequently asked questions.

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