ACEC Texas Awards Gold Medal to LAN for SARA Water Quality Modeling Tool Development Project

(HOUSTON – Dec. 10, 2015) The American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) Texas awarded civil engineering firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, Inc. (LAN) a gold medal for its work on the San Antonio River Authority (SARA) Water Quality Modeling Tool Development project. The award, given under the Studies, Research and Consulting Engineering Services category, will be presented during the ACEC Texas Engineering Excellence Awards Gala at the La Cantera Resort in San Antonio on March 21, 2016.

The Engineering Excellence Awards Competition has been held by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Texas since its inception in 1975 to honor and recognize outstanding achievements within the engineering community. A panel of judges around the state select projects based on innovation, future value to the engineering profession, social and economic considerations, complexity and exceeding the client’s needs.

In recent years, selection and implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) and low-impact development (LID) strategies to address urban runoff pollution have become important components of holistic watershed master planning and stormwater management. However, these strategies have been limited to qualitative planning due to the lack of suitable tools to conduct quantitative assessment. As a result, the effectiveness of the BMP/LID practices could only rely on follow-up long-term monitoring to verify, and there is in general a lack of planning effort prior to implementing BMPs or LID.

To help address these issues and support compliance with increasing water quality regulations, professional engineers with SARA, LAN and software developers with AQUA TERRA Consultants created a number of innovative water quality modeling tools to allow quantitative water quality master planning and BMP/LID prioritization for three major water sheds in the San Antonio River Basin: Salado Creek, Leon Creek, and Upper San Antonio River watersheds.

Under the sponsorship and direction of SARA, the LAN team conducted the following main tasks:

  • Authored a “SARA Water Quality Modeling Standards” document to ensure consistency in the development, calibration, and validation of water quality models;
  • Developed and calibrated dynamic water quality models to identify impaired water bodies (locations, timing, and constituents);
  • Developed and tested a SARA Load Reduction Tool to determine percent load reductions needed to achieve selected screening levels for each of the modeled constituents on a sub-basin basis;
  • Developed and tested a SARA Enhanced BMP Tool to determine the optimal (minimal cost) combination of the types and numbers of BMPs and LID units needed to achieve the required load reductions.

“The models and tools developed are on the cutting edge of the water quality modeling profession nationwide,” said Dr. Yu-Chun Su, Environmental and Water Resources Engineering technical director for LAN. “These tools provide water authorities and stormwater professionals around the country a new and more effective way to address water quality issues in their communities.”

Using these SARA models and tools, water quality agencies and stormwater professionals can now determine the optimal combinations of BMPs/LID to accomplish their goals and save substantial stormwater infrastructure and management costs.

Furthermore, the results from these models could potentially help the Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies to determine BMPs/LID needed to delist many impaired water bodies around the country (or if delisting is possible or not using BMPs/LID strategies alone).

 In the long run, applying these models and tools will enable water authorities and stormwater professionals to effectively manage stormwater runoffs as close as possible to the source, thereby creating more sustainable watersheds, improving public health and quality of life, enhancing natural habitats, supporting public recreation as well as boosting the local economy.

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