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Alabama Water Institute

New UA Stormwater Detention Basin to Ease Flooding and Provide Research Opportunities

An underground concrete room with pillars and water on the ground.

Flooding should be less of a problem for one area of The University of Alabama campus. A new underground stormwater detention basin beneath the Tutwiler Triangle Lot will help quickly reduce the amount of standing water after heavy rain.

The basin, located at the corner of Bryant Drive and 10th Avenue, has a capacity of three million gallons and is 56,000 gross square feet in size. In the past, rain has caused frequent flooding along the roads and pathways due to the insufficient capacity of the previous storm drainage system. Significant flooding in that area also contributed to traffic congestion, which included slowing down emergency responders during rain events. The new basin will greatly reduce the potential for flooding hazards and support the University’s continued redevelopment of the South Campus Residential area.

Water collection in the basin is also an added and valuable benefit for campus researchers. It can be a central and important source for many research applications, including, but not limited to remote sensing, geohydrology and hydrologic modeling.

“The UA stormwater detention basin is an engineering solution that can now serve as a natural lab for faculty and students to understand a real-world problem,” said Scott Rayder, executive director of the Alabama Water Institute. “It is a novel solution that will have applicability in many areas where urban flooding can be an issue and presents a great case study to show how science and engineering can work together to Tuscaloosa’s benefit.”

In the early design process of the basin project, a team of UA students was recognized by the Environment Protection Agency as having one of the top eight designs out of 87 nationally for innovative solutions for stormwater flooding. The accolades came in 2018 after entering the design in the 2017 EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge.

The design project, funded and supported by Dr. Sagy Cohen’s Surface Dynamics Modeling Lab in UA’s Department of Geography, also won first place at the 2017 SEC Water Matters Challenge.

“We submitted a plan for an underground detention and retention basin with dynamic management,” said Julia Zimmerman, a civil and environmental engineering student and lead for the 2017 UA Campus RainWorks team. “Water could be stored, released slowly or infiltrated into the groundwater.”

Since the basin is underground, the land is still complementary to the area’s redevelopment. The parking lot above it provides spots for 139 vehicles. There have been extra utility and infrastructure upgrades, as well as additional lighting along 10th Avenue and landscaping between the surface lot and nearby cemetery. The sidewalk along 10th Avenue has also been modified to accommodate increased pedestrian traffic.

The $7.7 million project began in November 2019 was completed in July 2020.