The University of Louisiana at Lafayette is making waves, or rather, helping to prevent them.
Beating out 49 other universities, UL Lafayette won the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2018 Campus RainWorks Challenge in the Master Plan category, according to Louisiana.edu.
Their plan, titled, “The Ripple Effect: Community Cultivated, Regionally Replicated,” is focused on preventing floods on campus and in the Lafayette community, according to Gretchen Vanicor, director of sustainability at UL Lafayette.
Vanicor said they developed a master plan, which is part of UL Lafayette’s main campus, as well as the athletics field to better help manage stormwater management.
“Stormwater management, in a way, was environmentally responsible as well as it would reduce flash flooding risks on campus as well as the community,” Vanicor said.
Vanicor cited the significant rainfall in 2016 as a factor for their master plan with EPA.
“In 2016, it was obviously more significant than what we typically get,” Vanicor said. “And the rain event we get here are serious and most of Lafayette and the campus were developed prior to having stormwater management codes that help manage stormwater on campus.”
The stormwater management codes, which were put in place in the 1990s in Lafayette, protect watercourses and water resources, according to Friends of the Verde River.
This is largely achieved, the website continued, by promoting practices to ensure that post-development runoff rates do not exceed pre-development rates. Impervious surfaces, such as roads and parking lots are in many cases the most significant contributors to stormwater runoff in a community.
“That is some of the reason why we have flash flooding on campus because we were built prior to those codes,” Vanicor said. “A lot of the ripple effect is to adapting our current campus and to the current (problems) we face and making campus more resilient to the heavy storm events.”
Vanicor noted a number of grad students and UL Lafayette professors as part of the master plan, including Kari Smith, a professor in the School of Architecture and Design.
Smith said her role was to be an adviser to the students to help create ideas for their master plan.
“It was really to help the students and provoke the students into thinking about some of the issues we have on campus,” Smith said. “And think about ways we could synthesize the ideas into a comprehensive master plan.”
Smith added the students were generating ideas, noting some of the ideas were more independent.
“So there was a strategy that needed to emerge to bring them all together under one bigger idea which was the master plan,” Smith said.
Smith said one of their biggest contributions is the aquifer storage and recovery system.
“The ASR project, that’s a big impact, it can manage a lot of water,” Smith said. “And so (with) that idea, we really know a lot about and the potential impact of that one would be the first in Louisiana.”
Smith added she won’t as far to say the ASR is one of the most important projects but it is one that they know a lot about, citing a transdisciplinary team of social scientist and engineering scientists that has been working on it since 2015.
On campus, Vanicor said she believes it’s time to adapt and start making our the area of UL Lafayette more responsive to these events like the 2016 flooding.
“We have the knowledge to do it and we know we can improve campus to take these project off campus and into the community, and that is extremely meaningful to us,” Vanicor said.
Historic rainfall that hit Lafayette in August of 2016