Mapping Stormwater Runoff Infrastructure for the City of Bothell

This page authored by Robert Turner, University of Washington Bothell
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
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This page first made public: Jan 4, 2013


As the term project for a Hydrogeology course, students in small groups were tasked with mapping the flow of stormwater runoff on newly developed or altered properties in the City of Bothell. Each group did reconnaissance during rain events, tracing stormwater flow and identifying problems. Then, they made maps using a GPS, an aerial photograph, and City of Bothell stormwater infrastructure symbols. The students shared their results with the city in a presentation and a report that compiled each group's map and text observations.

Learning Goals

The Big Ideas include fostering awareness of: 1) the ubiquity of stormwater runoff; 2) how our current development paradigm fosters impervious surfaces and increased runoff that is directed to streams as quickly as possible; and 3) how students at any level can make obserservations and maps that are useful in environmental management. This service-learning activity also fosters enhanced connections with our local community.

Specific learning objectives include advancement in:
- Critical and quantitative thinking – including improving your ability to evaluate what you read and see; identify underlying patterns, connections, and discrepancies in hydrogeologic data; and to generate graphics that successfully communicate complex quantitative information.
- Collaboration – including an improved facility in working with partners in an equitable and reliable research and problem-solving collaboration.
- Research – as manifested by improvement in collecting and organizing high quality data.
- Ability to explain how different landscapes and infrastructure are likely to impact the flow and quality of stormwater runoff, particularly in the city of Bothell.

Context for Use

Hydrogeology is a 300-level course meant for junior and senior science majors, but students of all majors and level of preparation were enrolled. Accordingly, the project was designed so that students of all levels, majors, and preparation could contribute. This project requires a minimum of 5 weeks to complete, with most of the work taking place independently outside of class time. Group sizes depend on the size of a property and the complexity of its stormwater runoff infrastructure/issues. Small, straightforward properties can be mapped by student pairs. Students need to be trained in the use of a GPS unit to record geographic coordinate information and the entire class should go on a field trip where a community partner models how to investigate the stormwater infrastructure and issues of a property. Class time should also be devoted to basic mapping techniques and collaborating on how to make all maps and reports come up to uniform standards. This activity should be very easy to adapt to any setting or level of student assuming a community partner can be engaged and properties of interest can be identified.

In this case, the City of Bothell could identify several properties where maps of stormwater infrastructure were out of date or non-existent. A few of our maps and observations helped identify potential pollution and flooding problems that were immediately checked out by City of Bothell staff. The information on our maps was entered into the City's GIS database and, according to our contact, provided "a reference as to whether or not we had data to capture on that site."

Description and Teaching Materials

The activity has several parts:
1) Learning about stormwater runoff, which is prompted via lectures, readings, homework problems, and field trips.
2) Learning how to use a GPS unit and make a map using an aerial photograph.
3) Breaking up into partner pairs and small groups based on compatible schedules outside of class time.
4) Meeting up with a community partner (in our case, an engineer for the City of Bothell) to learn about the city's stormwater issues, to receive property assignments, and learn how to investigate the stormwater infrastructure, flow and problems of a site.
5) Each group conducting an investigation of their site at least twice, with one time occurring during a rain event.
6) The entire class collaborating on what should be included on maps and in the reports and how these maps and reports should look.
7) Each group generating a draft map and report (guidance document uploaded, as well as a pdf of symbols used in the maps).
8) Workshopping of group draft maps and reports.
9) Each group generating a final map and report.
10) Each group conducting a short presentation of their map and findings to the community partner. Guidance Document for the Draft Map and Report Assignment (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 18kB Dec24 12)
The Symbols for Use in Maps of Stormwater Infrastructure and Flow (Acrobat (PDF) 148kB Dec24 12)
Hydrogeology syllabus for Winter Quarter 2012 (Microsoft Word 681kB Dec24 12)

Teaching Notes and Tips

To make the final report of real use to the community partner, extra time should be devoted to working out with the students what observations to include as text, how to make their maps look good, and how to ensure uniformity in map features and text headings and detail. Provide sufficient time for students to submit drafts and workshop them in class.


Student achievement of goals for the activity are assessed via a draft map and report, a final map and report and contribution to a presentation made to the community partner. Each student assesses the contribution they and their partners made to their field work, maps, and reports.

References and Resources

Evergreen State College