Collaborative Research to Manage Stormwater Impacts on Coastal Reserves

Stormwater outfalls that discharge into coastal waters have detrimental impacts on human and ecosystem health worldwide. Elevated levels of pathogenic bacteria, viruses, nutrients, sediment, and turbidity are associated with coastal stormwater outfalls, leading to swimming and fishing closures, illness, and negative impacts on estuarine ecosystems. Recent research on stormwater outfalls in North Carolina, including those discharging to the Rachel Carson Reserve (a component of North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve), shows dramatic delivery of contaminants during storm events. However, most decision makers and stakeholders concerned with water quality are unprepared to address long-term water quality issues related to stormwater discharge.

This project will conduct applied research using a multi-faceted approach to: 1) Quantify pathogens, nutrients, and sediment delivery to the Rachel Carson Reserve; 2) create predictive models for shellfish and recreational waters in the North Carolina Reserve by using this information, along with decades of historical data; 3) engage stakeholders and end users to prioritize management options; and 4) engage coastal decision-makers, community members, K-12 students, and teachers in hands-on education on stormwater runoff and its impacts.