The Wabash River is the most extensive river system in Indiana. The river drains two-thirds of Indiana’s 92 counties, which can have issues associated with stormwater runoff (Weist, 1981). As precipitation runs off impervious surfaces, it can carry high concentrations of pollutants, such as excess nitrogen and phosphorus, pet waste, and automobile fuel. Prior to impervious runoff entering the river, preexisting contaminants include industrial waste (acid mine drainage and oil field brines), municipal waste, and sediment (Weist, 1981). Thus, stormwater runoff can negatively impact the Wabash River watershed. On top of this pollution, Lafayette and West Lafayette have combined sewer overflows (CSOs).

A CSO collects wastewater and stormwater in a single sewer system, with a majority of collected waste transported to the wastewater treatment plant. During significant rainfall events, the sewer system overflows with a mixture of raw wastewater and precipitation, spilling into the Wabash River. The impact of a CSO system can be physical, chemical, microbiological, or combined (Marsalek, 2003). Erosion and sediment transport, temperature rise, dissolved oxygen depletion, eutrophication, and acute or chronic toxicity are some of the ecological impacts of urban CSO systems.

Additionally, in a survey conducted by Purdue University in 2016, Greater Lafayette urban residents acknowledged the Wabash River as contaminated and unusable (Gao et al., 2016). The community members indicated that they would enjoy the river if it were clean and managed adequately. Future protection of the Wabash River is necessary to prevent runoff from entering the watershed and developing these harmful environmental effects.

I was interested in partaking in Dr. Lindsey Payne’s course “Urban Water Projects” (EEE 495) to involve myself in community projects in Greater Lafayette. The course is offered to students with an interest in community-engaged design processes of green infrastructure. The purpose of installing green infrastructure, alternatively best management practices (BMPs), is to mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff entering the Wabash River. Civic engagement, design, addressing local water sustainability issues, and education are some of the key concepts required when students integrate and promote green infrastructure solutions in the community. The purpose of including this course in my undergraduate career was to educate myself and the community about ecological engagement opportunities.