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Water Science & Technology Vol 63 No 11 pp 2658–2665 © IWA Publishing 2011 doi:10.2166/wst.2011.153

Performance of infiltration swales with regard to operation in winter times in an Alpine region

Stefan Fach, Carolina Engelhard, Nina Wittke and Wolfgang Rauch

Unit of Environmental Engineering, Institute of Infrastructure, University of Innsbruck, Technikerstr. 13, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria E-mail: stefan.fach@uibk.ac.at


In cold climate regions winter conditions significantly influence the performance of stormwater infiltration devices. Frozen soil and water storage by snow changes their operation. In this paper winter operation of a grassed infiltration swale was investigated using on-site and laboratory measurements. The field investigation of a grassed swale at a parking place in an Alpine region showed that the swale fulfilled its function properly. Although the top layer was frozen for some time, the storage capacity of the swale was sufficient to store the precipitation until the conditions improved. The soil attenuated the air temperature, at 20 cm below ground surface the soil was only frozen for one week. Winter maintenance proved to be a problem, together with the snow from the parking place a lot of gravel and fine particles were deposited at one end of the swale. This decreased the hydraulic conductivity at that point significantly. The laboratory tests with soil columns showed an increase of flow time through the soil column with decreasing soil moisture content. For soil temperatures below 0 °C the hydraulic conductivity was reduced for increasing initial soil moisture contents. All in all the hydraulic conductivity was best around 0 °C for all soil water contents. However, also at minus 5 °C the coefficient of hydraulic conductivity was always at least above 10-6 m/s, thus within the range of tolerated hydraulic conductivity specified in the national guidelines. Nevertheless, the handling of the soil was found to have high influence on the results. The results indicate that in the Alpine region infiltration swales operate sufficiently under winter conditions although with decreased performance.

Keywords: infiltration performance; infiltration swale; soil moisture; soil temperature; stormwater infiltration; winter operation

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