Ohio State, Advanced Drainage Systems Collaborate on Sustainable Water Management, Recycling

January 25, 2022 06:45 AM

Official OSU PhotoColumbus, Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- The Sustainability Institute at Ohio State announced a new collaboration with Advanced Drainage Systems, Inc. (NYSE: WMS) (ADS), that will support water management research, enhance student learning, and make campus more sustainable. The company is donating two state-of-the-art stormwater management systems for the Innovation District on West Campus along with a cash gift to install them, as well as funds to support research and teaching opportunities. Additional parts of the gift will promote diversity and inclusion by supporting the Engineering House Learning Community and will help the university improve recycling on campus.  The combined value of the product donation and cash gift exceeds $1 million.

“The new collaboration with ADS will greatly improve the way Ohio State manages stormwater runoff from new development in the Innovation District,” says Kate Bartter, executive director of the Sustainability Institute. Stormwater management is a significant economic and environmental issue for new construction and redevelopment. Stormwater runoff from developed areas carries numerous pollutants to lakes, rivers and oceans; often raises the temperature of the receiving surface water body, negatively affecting aquatic life; and deprives groundwater recharge through absorption of stormwater into the soil. 

“The ADS systems will strengthen ecosystem services on campus, which is one of Ohio State’s sustainability goals,” Bartter adds.

The collaboration draws attention to stormwater management at a time when climate change is exacerbating the issue by greatly increasing the number and intensity of storm events. Catastrophic flooding in the southern United States and overseas in places like Germany has highlighted the danger from extreme storm events to life and property. City and state regulations require new development to manage stormwater from heavy rainfall to avoid overflows in combined sewer and other stormwater systems that can spread bacteria and degrade streams. Proper stormwater management can also improve water quality, especially by trapping sediment. 

The challenges posed by stormwater management are a powerful motivation for ADS, a supplier of drainage products for residential, commercial, agriculture and infrastructure markets. “Our reason is water, whether in an urban or rural setting,” says Scott Barbour, ADS President and CEO. “We are pleased to be able to help Ohio State manage stormwater runoff at its new Innovation District with this donation.” 

ADS is not stopping there. In addition to the product donation and installation cost, the company plans to support research and teaching opportunities that will use the larger of the two stormwater systems as a living laboratory for urban water management. This will benefit Ohio State faculty like Ryan Winston, assistant professor in the Departments of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE) and Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering and a core faculty member of the Sustainability Institute. “Most people in urban areas don’t think about where their water comes from or where it goes because so much of the infrastructure is hidden underground,” says Winston. “The installation of the ADS system means that we can create hands-on opportunities for students to learn about sustainable water management outside the classroom.”

Winston has already started to engage students. This academic year, he is faculty advisor to a capstone team of FABE students who will design a rainwater harvesting system that would pump water stored in the ADS system and use it for landscape irrigation. The final report by the students will help inform opportunities for the university to recycle rainwater and reduce the amount of potable water it consumes. Not only is ADS sponsoring the team, but its executive vice president for product development will also serve as a team advisor.

“Ohio State using our product on campus for research and teaching purposes is one of the most exciting parts of the collaboration,” says Brian King, ADS executive vice president, marketing, product management and sustainability. “We are especially pleased to be able to support engineering students from underrepresented populations through our gift to the Engineering House Learning Community.”

But water is not the only “stream” covered by the new gift. 

“Roughly two-thirds of the material used in ADS products is recycled content,” King adds. Ohio State provides single-stream recycling across campus and has recently expanded what it accepts to type 5 plastic (polypropylene) used in yogurt containers and other packaging. As part of its gift, ADS will be the largest sponsor of the university’s “Recycle Right” campaign. This arrangement is a win-win. “The better recycling is across campus, the more material will be available for ADS products,” King points out.

The collaboration was made possible in part by the strong commitment of Ohio State’s Administration and Planning team to making campus more sustainable. Water and waste experts in the Department of Facilities Operations and Development, with technical support from its design and construction team and the university landscape architect, guided the opportunity.

For Bartter, the new relationship with ADS underscores the vast potential of combining research, student learning and campus operations. 

“Bringing together Ohio State’s core assets like this is the equivalent of an academic trifecta,” she says. “It really demonstrates what the university can contribute to our knowledge and application of sustainability solutions. This collaboration will not only make our campus more sustainable, but it also will generate research and teaching benefits for years to come.”

To learn more, watch our video.

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