Bioswales

KEVIN DAHMS (FES M.E.Sc. 2018)

As I am climbing into manholes and maneuvering bulky sampling equipment, I am often approached by the community members of Newhallville. Since June 2016, I have been working with Yale’s Urban Resources Initiative (URI) and Hixon Center for Urban Ecology to study seven bioswales in this neighborhood of New Haven. Bioswales, a type of green infrastructure, are small curbside gardens that purify stormwater runoff and reduce flooding through infiltration, storage in the soil, and evapotranspiration from the plants. Even though the bioswales are clearly visible to the public, their functional purpose was generally unknown to most residents. Therefore, through my field work and with the help of URI staff, it has been extremely rewarding to inform the community that these gardens serve much more of a purpose than a standard beautification project.
When approached by a community member, I describe how stormwater runoff can cause flooding and contains pollutants that reduce water quality in Long Island Sound. After explaining why I am studying the bioswales and the purpose they serve, it is encouraging to see how excited residents are that these green management strategies are in their neighborhood. Generally, the feedback from the community has been supportive, which is crucial since the residents will play a key role in maintaining the bioswales and ensuring their longevity.