Building a “green” infrastructure

By Peter Kent

Watershed Center LogoLike all cities, as Aiken has grown, so have the number of roads, parking lots and roofs – all impervious surfaces that prevent rainwater from soaking into the soil.

The result has been increased stormwater runoff that has caused severe erosion in the Sand River and Hitchcock Woods just outside the city. One of the largest urban forests in the nation with about 2,100 acres of forestland, Hitchcock Woods is a favorite place for both horseback riders and hikers.

The Clemson Center for Watershed Excellence led design of a “green infrastructure” to capture and treat stormwater before it leaves the city. Underground cisterns, pervious pavement, rain gardens and bioswales are all part of the system to slow runoff.

Bioswales – ditches filled with vegetation – remove silt and some pollution from surface water. Rain gardens remove pollutants and allow stormwater to slowly infiltrate the groundwater table. They also absorb excess nitrogen and phosphorous and trap sediment.

The “green infrastructure” project was designed and implemented in partnership with the city of Aiken and engineering firm Woolpert Inc. It is funded by a federal grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Clemson scientists will install monitoring equipment and conduct research on the water flow and quality as part of the statewide Intelligent RiverTM program, said watershed center director Gene Eidson.

The Intelligent RiverTM research team deploys a network of sensors that transmit vast amounts of information wirelessly. Data, such as flow rate and dissolved oxygen content, are displayed in real-time on the Internet. Clemson’s remote-sensing research is the national model for the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“We’re trying to reverse stormwater damage by creating areas for natural treatment of runoff and groundwater recharge,” Eidson said. “If we’re successful, we’ll reduce the cost of restoring Sand River.”

sketch of a rain garden


For more information: or Gene Eidson, 864-656-2618,