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Quantifying the impact (social, economic and environmental) of stormwater in the City of Oberlin and designing a sustainable solution to address it.

Oberlin, Ohio

Featured image for the project, Quantifying the impact (social, economic and environmental) of stormwater in the City of Oberlin and designing a sustainable solution to address it.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Reeves

The project aims to solve the problem of stormwater in the City of Oberlin. 

To achieve this, we first need to have a clear understanding of the impact of stormwater on the City. We would like to collect data to describe the scale of the problem in terms of the three dimensions of sustainability (social, environmental and economic). The data of interest include public interviews, records reviews, and field observations. These data will then be presented into graphs, graphics and infomatics to the decision makers in the City. 

By solving the stormwater problem using a sustainable approach, we will improve the quality of life of residents and ensure sustainable stormwater management. 

Thanks to this project, residents will be able to get rid of the accumulation of stormwater in their yards and the associated nuisance. 


About the Community

Oberlin is a community of 8-9,000 people, plus a college that can add around 3,000 more people to the community when it is in session.  

The community has progressive environmental and social ideals, and seeks to improve the quality of life for all residents through environmentally friendly means. There are native tree planting programs and the city’s stormwater coordinator, our community lead, has been working to increase stormwater awareness since she took office in 2019. 

The city government is making the ongoing Stormwater Master Plan public. People have had a lot of very interesting questions and misunderstandings about how the city can manage stormwater within its borders. (Link to the section of the City website related to stormwater management). 


About the Project

The community would like to quantify the impact of stormwater and engage with a scientist specializing in green infrastructure and low impact design (GI/LID), so that they can design a variety of potential solutions to stormwater issues that can then be worked on by the stakeholders that will result in sustainable stormwater management. 

The stakeholders are primarily the stormwater coordinator and residents. 


Residents often complain about problems such as the build-up of water in someone’s yard. While there may be health issues related to standing water or mosquitoes, most complaints are due to people not being able to mow their lawn. Residents will benefit from solutions that help them manage this water in their yards, rather than building elaborate and expensive underground pipe systems that would simply move the water elsewhere and create the same issue to manage elsewhere. 

To advance the priority described above, the project intends to conduct a comprehensive survey and interview community members about their views on stormwater and their ideal outcomes regarding how to manage the effects of stormwater on individual properties and property owners. The information gathered in this survey can then be used to develop informational materials as part of a public education campaign. It can also be presented to decision makers within the City to help guide them in their Stormwater Master Planning.  

This project will produce clear graphs, graphics, and reports describing the scale of the stormwater problem in the City and sustainable approaches to tackling it.  

The City of Oberlin and other communities will acquire the techniques they need to manage stormwater sustainably.  

Timeline and Milestones

The expected duration of the project is approximately 12 months. 

Project Team

Community Lead

Jennifer Reeves, Stormwater Coordinator, City of Oberlin 

After working in the private sector as an Environmental Scientist for almost a decade, Jennifer Reeves brought their experience in water management and compliance to the City of Oberlin when the City created a Stormwater Coordinator position to officially manage its stormwater services. Jennifer has been working to reincorporate historically existing ecosystem services back into their community to address stormwater runoff and related concerns. They are also working to make the idea of building a better living relationship with one’s environment, rather than relying on heavily engineered mechanical solutions, more commonly embraced by the general population. 


Community Science Fellow

Audrey Maatchi, founder & CEO, AudGreen Consulting 

Because she dreams of cities in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, etc. shining with the light of sustainability, Audrey founded AudGreen Consulting, a company that helps companies and organizations to perform better by adopting sustainability in their strategy and day-to-day operations. She is convinced that by raising environmental awareness in the workplace, many people will become involved as ambassadors for sustainable living in their families and communities, because we all need to act together to make sustainable development a reality. 

Scientist Wanted

We are looking for people with one or all of these three skillsets: 

  1. The highest priority skillset is the background and ability to develop a survey and interview community members about their views on stormwater. The survey can be developed as one that is carried out verbally, such as over the phone or in-person at community events. Or it could be written and delivered as part of a mail campaign. They type of survey can be flexible – but the scientist’s comfort in writing unbiased questions and knowing how to collect and make sense of the data is very important. Ideally, it would also be useful to use this survey process to determine what kind of ideal outcomes residents envision as a solution to their stormwater concerns. The ability to work with people of a wide range of ages and knowledge (or lack thereof) of computers and science in order to communicate with and get survey responses from residents is also important. This scientist would then work with the Project Team to turn the interview results into graphs, graphics, or infomatics (whatever conveys the information distinctly and directly) so that the Project Team can present the information to the decision makers in the City through a power point presentation. 
  2. Once information on the three dimensions of sustainability (social, environmental and economic) has been collected, someone with the skills to develop communications or public outreach materials is desired. Options for outreach may include, but are not limited to, social media and information marketing campaigns, designing wayfaring signs for public exhibition, developing activity packets for different age groups. The exact form of outreach materials to be developed will depend on the skillset of the person interested.These outreach methods are intended to share information about stormwater that will either reinforce existing desired public perceptions on stormwater management, or offer education on best practices and misunderstood management designs by showing how residents can better address stormwater management challenges.
  3. GI/LID scientist capable of using the results of the interviews to design several GI/LID solutions to address the stormwater problem in the City. The ideal scientist will have adaptation experience and experience with stormwater analysis and urban sustainability. 

Each solution should be assessed with sustainability criteria and presented in a report that will be shared with the decision makers in the City. 

The community is very interested in involving the next generation of scientists in appropriate community engagement. It accepts postgraduate students, higher education students and high school students. Lower level students may require more supervision than they can currently provide.   

There is no preference as to whether the scientist should be local or remote to the community. 


Desired Skills and Qualifications: 

  • Knowledge and respect for local cultures and worldviews
  • Experience and/or desire to participate in community education, outreach, and engagement
  • Experience with citizen science
  • Public interaction skills
  • Strong listening and collaboration skills
  • Willingness to connect science to local concerns
  • Relaxed, easy-going personality with a good sense of humor
  • It would be appreciated if the scientist(s) could visit the community in-person


Thriving Earth Exchange asks all scientific partners to work with the community to help define a project with concrete local impact to which they can contribute as pro-bono volunteers and collaborators. This work can also position the scientists and communities to seek additional funding, together, for the next stage. 


Interested in volunteering as a scientist? Apply now!