Main content area

Flood reduction as an ecosystem service of constructed wetlands for combined sewer overflow

Rizzo, A., Bresciani, R., Masi, F., Boano, F., Revelli, R., Ridolfi, L.
Journal of hydrology 2018 v.560 pp. 150-159
bioretention areas, case studies, combined sewer systems, constructed wetlands, ecosystem services, floods, hydrograph, mathematical models, pollutants, pollution control, ponds, rivers, roads, streams, unsaturated flow, urban runoff, urbanization, Italy
Urban runoff negatively impacts the receiving streams and different solutions have been proposed in literature to limit the effect of urbanization on the water balance. These solutions suggest to manage urban runoff in order to switch from a post-development river hydrograph (high peak and short duration) back again to a pre-development hydrograph (low peak and high duration). Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) represent severe pollutant sources for receiving streams due to the combination of first flush of roads and sewers and black water conveyed by combined sewer systems. Constructed wetlands for CSO treatment (CSO-CWs) are adopted with increasing frequency for reducing pollutant inputs to streams. Moreover, these systems exhibit the characteristic to behave similarly to ponds, wetlands, and bioretention systems that provide flood mitigation by decreasing the intensity of peak flows. This work aims to show the additional ecosystem service provided by CSO-CWs in term of limitation of the hydraulic impact of CSO on stream hydrograph. A mathematical model is developed to simulate the hydraulic behavior of a real case study situated in Gorla Maggiore (Italy), which includes vertical flow subsurface beds (VF) as first stage and a free water surface bed (FWS) as second stage. The model simulates the unsaturated flow within VF and the accumulation of water on the top of VF and within FWS. Results show a satisfactory lamination performance of the system for both single and up to 5 consecutive flood events, with a peak flow reduction ranging from 52.7% to 95.4%. Withdrawn of flow rate from the river in order to cope with long dry period does not significantly affect the lamination performances. The considered CSO-CW exhibits an excellent lamination efficiency also during more intense floods events, with a peak flow reduction of 86.2% for a CSO event with return period of 10 years. The flow rate frequency density function determined by the CSO-CW is more shifted towards lower values compared to untreated CSOs. These results indicate that CSO-CWs work properly in terms of reduction of CSO urbanization impact on stream hydrology.