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Water Science & Technology Vol 65 No 2 pp 361–367 © IWA Publishing 2012 doi:10.2166/wst.2012.860

Improving bioretention/biofiltration performance with restorative maintenance

Robert A. Brown and William F. Hunt

Biological and Agricultural Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7625, USA E-mail: bill_hunt@ncsu.edu; wfhunt@ncsu.edu


One of the most popular Stormwater Control Measures is bioretention, or biofiltration. Anecdotal evidence suggests that well-designed bioretention cells are often not adequately installed and that maintenance is lacking, leading to less-than-adequate water storage volume and/or surface infiltration rates post-construction. In March 2009, two sets of bioretention cells were repaired by excavating the top 75 mm of fill media, increasing the bioretention surface storage volume by nearly 90% and the infiltration rate by up to a factor of 10. Overflow volume decreased from 35 and 37% in the pre-repair state for two different sets of cells, respectively, to 11 and 12%. Nearly all effluent pollutant loads exiting the post-repair cells were lower than their pre-repair conditions. The bioretention systems employed two different media depths (0.6 and 0.9 m). The deeper media cells discharged less outflow volume than the shallower cells, with 10–11% more runoff volume leaving as exfiltration from the 0.9-m than from the 0.6-m media depth cells. This study showed that maintenance is both critical and beneficial to restore otherwise poorly performing bioretention. Moreover, while deeper media cells did outperform the shallower systems, the improvement in this case was somewhat modest vis-à-vis additional construction costs.

Keywords: bioretention; construction; LID; maintenance; media depth; runoff; stormwater; SUDS; WSUD

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