BLACKSBURG, VA.—Faculty and researchers at Virginia Tech expect a software application they are developing, with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will help engineers and planners select the most efficient and site-specific best management practices (BMPs) to control the amount of pollutants that enter receiving waters through stormwater runoff. The new BMP-selection approach, called Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP), will factor in dozens of site-specific criteria such as soil types, land slopes, or maintenance accessibility before choosing the optimal BMPs for a particular location.

The project involves collaboration between Virginia Tech’s Virginia Water Resources Research Center, the Center for Geospatial Information Technology (CGIT) in the Research Division, and the Via Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in the College of Engineering.

"This technique is expected to drastically reduce the BMP selection time and will also eliminate the human error from such a complex process," said Tamim Younos, water center associate director and research professor of water resources in the Department of Geography in the College of Natural Resources, who serves as project coordinator. Other project leaders include Randy Dymond, CGIT co-director, and David Kibler, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Traditionally, stormwater experts "rely heavily on past knowledge, tradition, or even personal preference for particular methods of controlling stormwater runoff," said Kevin Young, research associate at CGIT. Too often, Young said, personal bias has led to "cookie-cutter" solutions to very complex stormwater management needs, resulting in poor control of the pollutants.

The new tool will be pilot tested on Blacksburg’s stormwater system and the local Stroubles Creek watershed. The AHP software will be used by the research team to select BMPs within the watershed contributing runoff to Stroubles Creek, the town’s main receiving water body. Two existing computer models will then be used to simulate how efficient the selected BMPs are at removing the stormwater runoff pollutants.

The software will be free to use by all interested engineers and planners, localities, and BMP review authorities, and is expected to be applicable in other states with geographic and climatic environments similar to Virginia.