The Nature Conservancy Stormwater Heatmap
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Project Objective

Stormwater pollution is a significant environmental challenge in urban areas, including in Washington’s Puget Sound watershed. Geosyntec collaborated with The Nature Conservancy to develop a public, online tool to help residents and decision-makers understand runoff into the Puget Sound and make informed decisions about how to manage stormwater.

Geosyntec helped The Nature Conservancy build its Stormwater Heatmap, an interactive open-source mapping tool, report generator, and data repository that quantitatively visualizes where pollution is generated and how and where it becomes runoff throughout the watershed. This transformational tool is a model for proactive stormwater management and conservation efforts in the Puget Sound region and across the United States.

Geosyntec's Scope of Services

Geosyntec helped develop new approaches for using remote-sensing data, machine learning, and cloud computing to estimate where stormwater pollution originates. We developed data pipelines to efficiently ingest and analyze large amounts of spatial and temporal data including land use, land cover, traffic information, and precipitation throughout the Puget Sound basin. Our practitioners ran thousands of simulations of rainfall runoff to develop hydrologic responses throughout the Puget Sound watershed.

To support the tool's scientific rigor and accuracy, experts from The Washington Stormwater Center at Washington State University Puyallup, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife vetted the heatmap throughout development.

Notable Accomplishments

The Stormwater Heatmap provides users with free access to the best-available data and science, including land cover, hydrology, and pollutant loading in a form that is compelling and easy to use. Users can access a wealth of data with 29 layers spanning various scales, from watersheds to neighborhoods. Powered by Google's BigQuery, the tool uses predictive modeling to provide an unprecedented volume of spatial data, extrapolating pollution loading from areas that were modeled to areas that either do not have modeling requirements or the funds to do it. Additionally, the tool can create downloadable reports and high-resolution visuals for operations, public presentations, and grant-funding applications.

In Puget Sound, the Stormwater Heatmap has already played a pivotal role in guiding state-level decisions regarding funding allocations and the most strategic ways to target investments in stormwater infrastructure.

The Geosyntec team [has] been fantastic to work with. Their depth of knowledge, innovative approaches, and breadth of technical expertise in the field of stormwater and surface water management sets them head and shoulders above other firms. I can’t recommend them enough!

—Emily Howe, Project Manager, The Nature Conservancy

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Project Summary

  • Location: Puget Sound, Washington
  • Client: The Nature Conservancy
  • Project Practice Areas: Water and Natural Resources
  • Services Provided: stormwater; pollution; Puget Sound watershed; hydrology; pollutant loading; predictive modeling