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USC Professors Share Water Quality Prize

USC Professors Share Water Quality Prize
Engineer Joe Devinny and political scientist Sheldon Kamieniecki team up on a solution to the clean-up of Southern California’s stormwater.

By Eric Mankin

A report on preventing ocean pollution authored by USC and UCLA faculty has won a prize from the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Joseph Devinny of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering collaborated with Sheldon Kamieniecki of the USC College department of political science and Michael Stenstrom of the UCLA civil and environmental engineering department on the report titled “Alternatives for Stormwater Control.”

The trio received its award Oct. 20 at the board’s annual dinner at the Long Beach Aquarium.

Published in August, the report reexamined strategy for cleaning up the torrents of winter rainwater that rush into the ocean off urban Southern California via storm drains, picking up chemical and biological pollution on the way.

One highly expensive, $284-billion alternative proposed in an earlier study had involved capturing the floodwater and then building 65 new standard drinking-water treatment plants to purify it before releasing it into the ocean.

The Devinny group looked to find a less-expensive resolution.

According to the report’s executive summary, “The objective of the study was to outline a complete solution to stormwater quality problems…. The alternatives of best management practices … for control of individual pollutants [source control], and if necessary, a regional system of wetlands and infiltration facilities to provide final treatment and groundwater replenishment were chosen.”

The group estimated the cost for this multipronged approach at between $3 and $7 billion.

However, Devinny said, “this alternative will also provide new parks for recreation, improved wildlife habitat, and of particular value, restoration of groundwater resources, improved property values and preservation of near shore ocean ecosystems.”

He said the group estimated the value of these benefits at $5.6 to $18 billion.

Devinny is a member of the USC Center for Sustainable Cities, which published the report.

Directed by Jennifer Wolch of the USC College department of geography, USC CSC includes faculty from engineering, the natural and social sciences, urban planning, and environmental health sciences.

The center receives funding from the National Science Foundation and is “ based on the conviction that resolution of environmental problems demands contributions from professionals trained in a variety of knowledge fields, holding diverse backgrounds, political perspectives and environmental philosophies, who must be able to work productively with multiple stakeholder groups.”

The center’s work uses the Los Angeles metropolitan area as its geographical focus and is now working on the Green Visions project, which is an effort to develop a regional plan for the greater Los Angeles area that will develop recreational parks, wildlife habitat and stormwater infiltration multiple use facilities.

The Web site for the project is