With Sac State

OWP is an active part of the Sac State community, and the larger post-secondary educational community in Sacramento.

Graduate Research Fellowship Connects OWP, Sac State, and City of Sacramento

Eric Uppal

Sac State master's degree candidate investigated the potential for using urban stormwater runoff as a source for a drinking water treatment plant to complete OWP's Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Eric's MS report was entitled "Capture and Reuse of Urban Runoff Conveyed Directly to a Drinking Water Treatment Facility as an Alternative Stormwater Management Strategy: A Sacramento Case Study." Eric evaluated the potential for using urban stormwater runoff as a water source for a drinking water treatment plant. Before it can be discharged to sensitive aquatic ecosystems, urban stormwater often requires costly treatment because fish are more sensitive to many pollutants than humans. Capturing and using the stormwater prevents its discharge to receiving water and so avoids the treatment requirements and costs. Working with Rod Frizzell, chief operator of Sacramento's Fairbairn Water Treatment Plant, Eric determined how much stormwater the treatment plant could accommodate when the stormwater comprised 10 to 100 percent of the treatment plant inflow, as well as what levels of treatment would be needed, based on Sacramento urban runoff quality.

He then used local hydrologic data to estimate that the watershed to provide these flows would need to be 500 to 5,000 acres. Finally, he compared the costs of stormwater storage and treatment to the costs of installing stormwater BMPs and found that on a per acre basis diverting the stormwater through the water plant would cost about 17 as much as retrofitting BMPs into urban neighborhoods.

Although Eric found that the engineering issues appear manageable and the costs reasonable in this hypothetical scenario, regulatory practices designed to protect public health still need to be addressed. Despite this, the project will provide useful guidance for making these kinds of evaluations. The project idea grew out of OWP research engineer Brian Currier's work with the California State Water Resources Control Board on statewide stormwater capture and use strategies. John Johnston, professor of civil engineering and OWP technical advisor, was Eric's academic advisor.

In addition to the opportunity to with work alongside faculty and research staff on real-world problems, OWP offers fellows reimbursement for part-time tuition (up to 6 units) upon completion of fellowships. For more information visit our Fellowship Opportunities page.