Coalition Enhances International Stormwater BMP Database

By Jane Clary, Jonathan Jones, P.E., D.WRE, Eric Strecker, P.E., and Marcus Quigley, P.E.

Wright Water Engineers, Inc. (clary@wrightwater.com and jonjones@wrighwater.com) Geosyntec Consultants (estrecker@geosyntec.com and mquigley@geosyntec.com)



In 1996, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) began partnering to develop the International Stormwater BMP Database (“Database”) project, which grew from the vision of members of the Environmental and Water Resources Institute’s Urban Water Resources Research Council (UWRRC).  The project’s original and current long-term goal is to gather sufficient technical design and performance information to improve BMP selection and design so that local stormwater problems can be cost-effectively addressed.  In 2004, the project transitioned to a more broadly supported coalition of partners led by the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) that continues to include support from EWRI and USEPA, as well as the American Public Works Association (APWA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).  Wright Water Engineers, Inc., and Geosyntec Consultants (“Project Team”) have continued as the entities maintaining and operating the Database clearinghouse and website, answering questions, conducting analyses of newly submitted BMP data, conducting updated performance evaluations of the overall data set, and disseminating project findings and progress.    Substantial progress has been made in 2007, with findings now accessible through a recently redesigned project website www.bmpdatabase.orgThis article provides a brief overview of the project and recent progress.




The BMP Database project currently includes  the following components:

  1. Providing guidance on BMP monitoring and reporting to enable more robust analysis of BMP studies for the engineering and scientific community. 
  2. Developing a centralized database for BMP studies that is available for public use, which can be used for research regarding the factors that lead to better BMP performance and for better selection of BMPs appropriate for various site conditions.
  3. Providing recommendations for standardized measures for assessing BMP performance that are based on scientifically and statistically-sound approaches.
  4. Completing periodic interpretive reports that provide performance data for individual BMP studies, as well as for overall BMP types (e.g., detention basins).
  5. Developing a website where all of the project’s progress and tools can be accessed for public use.

Monitoring and Reporting Protocolschart

Through the work of many members of the UWRRC and input from other invited experts in the mid-1990s, a detailed list of monitoring and reporting protocols for various BMP types was developed.  These protocols laid the foundation for the BMP Database.  Based on these protocols, the Database encompasses a broad range of parameters including test site location, watershed characteristics, climate data, BMP design and layout characteristics, monitoring instrumentation, and monitoring data for precipitation, flow and water quality.  The Database itself can be used in two ways: 

  1. As a tool for entities to track and maintain their own BMP data in a system that provides recognized standardized protocols and QA/QC and
  2. As an international resource of compiled BMP reporting and monitoring data useful to the overall user community. 

Researchers can search and download data from the project website (www.bmpdatabase.org), as well as download a spreadsheet package and user’s guide to track their own BMP studies.  The user’s guide provides an overview of the Database and descriptions of each requested data field. Additionally, users can download detailed monitoring guidance in a USEPA and ASCE  (2002) sponsored companion report to the project titled Urban Stormwater BMP Performance Monitoring.

Centralized Storage Tool

The Database has roughly increased almost six times in size since its initial release in 1999 and now contains 343 studies as of October 2007, as summarized in Table 1.  A few representative data providers have included California Department of Transportation (CalTrans), Washington State Department of Transportation, Urban Drainage and Flood Control District (Denver, CO), Dr. Shaw Yu (University of Virginia), Dr. Robert Traver (Villanova University); City of Portland, Oregon; Dr. Betty Rushton, Southwest Florida Water Management District; Dr. Robert Pitt, University of Alabama; Dr. Michael Barrett, University of Texas-Austin; the University of New Hampshire; the New York City Department of Environmental Protection; and many others. 



Data entered in the BMP Database are analyzed on an individual BMP basis, as well as according to BMP categories.  Additionally, guidance is provided on robust approaches to BMP performance assessment.  Downloadable outputs from the website include:

  1. Individual BMP Summaries (PDFs):  Analysis results for individual BMP studies meeting analysis protocols can be downloaded in PDF format through on-line searches of the BMP Database.
  2. Data Summaries in Excel Format:  Most requests that the Project Team receives focus on water quality and flow data.  Several spreadsheets with flow and water quality summary data can be downloaded from the website. 
  3. Overall Database in Microsoft Access:  This format is appropriate for individuals with database skills, who are able to create their own custom queries.  The primary audience for the overall Database has been researchers at universities. 
  4. Summary Analysis Reports:  A summary analysis report is prepared roughly annually that provides a condensed version of the data analysis that identifies how groups of BMP perform for commonly reported water quality constituents. 

The BMP Database has been used and cited by many, including in regulation promulgation (e.g., EPA, state and local agencies), BMP selection and design guidance projects, environmental impact statements and other state environmental policy compliance documents, as well as watershed and site stormwater plans.  Its use has resulted in more focus on selecting and designing BMPs to address specific parameters of concern.  As more Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) are established that include stormwater specific requirements, it is anticipated that the BMP database will be increasingly utilized and referenced.

Future Activities

The International BMP Database is an ongoing, long-term project that continually seeks new data and partnerships.  The Project Team operates a clearinghouse that provides assistance to the technical community on BMP performance and assessment and integrates new BMP studies into the Database.  Feel free to contact any of the authors for more information or visit the project website (www.bmpdatabase.org).