Wastewater Treatment/Reuse System Making Headlines

Estadio Omnilife, home of Mexico’s Las Chivas de Guadalajara soccer team. The 50,000-seat stadium is the first in the world to integrate a 100% wastewater treatment and reuse system. We’re proud to have designed that system, and thrilled to see it featured on the Green Sports Alliance blog!

New Development Pops up Atop Restored Stream

The Cove Spring Stream Restoration project, in Frankfort, Kentucky, is located in Cove Spring Nature Preserve, an ecologically and historically rich park which was once used as a water supply for the City of Frankfort.  Working with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the City of Frankfort, EcoTech and EcoGro/Ridgewater, Biohabitats crafted a restoration design that would limit impacts to the surrounding landscape, reconnect the stream with the floodplain, improve water quality and enhance habitat.  One month after construction was completed for the the downstream section, beaver have built two dams across the stream at the top of the constructed riffles. Biohabitats designed the project to work with the beaver and minimize the disturbance they would have on the ecosystem.  Beaver management is necessary due to the location being upstream of a pump station operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control flooding in Frankfort. Construction is currently underway upstream on the second portion of the project.

Could Algae Fuel Maryland?

Earlier this month, Abigail Hopper, Esq., Acting Director of the Maryland Energy Administration, took time to tour the Biohabitats/Univ. of MD Algal Turf Scrubber™pilot water treatment floway on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. This ecotechnology strips nutrients from and injects oxygen into harbor water. Of interest was the potential to use the regularly harvested algal biomass as an energy source. Large scale applications, which were discussed, hold enormous potential for Maryland’s efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and for a new fuel source. We’ll keep you posted!

Restoring Stability and Ecology in a Salt Lake City Park

We are pleased to share the news that the Salt Lake City Parks Department will go forward with our’ concept to use regenerative stream restoration to restore 1700 feet of Red Butte Creek in one of its popular neighborhood parks.  The creek was affected by a 2010 oil pipeline spill that occurred upstream and it has also been impacted by urban hydrology.  Increased discharges from the developed watershed have caused channel erosion.  The regenerative restoration approach will raise the creek bed, widen the channel and reduce stress on its bed and banks; slow down, detain and provide treatment of stormwater, and hydrate the floodplain to allow native riparian vegetation to flourish. Riffle/pool sequences of the regenerative approach will greatly increase aquatic habitat in this reach of Red Butte Creek. We’re hard at work developing the design and look forward to seeing it constructed in the coming year.

Surging Ahead with Montgomery County, Maryland

Biohabitats, with our joint venture partner Brown and Caldwell, was selected by the Montgomery County, MD Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Watershed Management Division (WMD) to partner in restoring stream valleys, improving water quality, and addressing historical damage caused by urban stormwater pollution. These watershed restoration activities are a regulatory requirement of the County’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit.  Montgomery County continues to be at the forefront nationally in watershed restoration and Biohabitats is honored to continue our working relationship with the County on a program with both regional and national implications.

Good News for Fish in the Lower Jemez River

The U.S. Forest Service recently selected Biohabitats to help with the restoration of fish habitat structures along seven miles of the lower Jemez River in the Santa Fe National Forest. In 1989, as part of the Lower Jemez River Corridor Project, nine v-notch log structures were installed in an effort to improve habitat for trout and other fish. Over the years, the structures deteriorated and the channel has become unstable.  Biohabitats will be crafting a design to remove the log structures,  restore the river bed and banks to a stable condition, and improve fish habitat. We can’t wait to get started!

Degraded, urban stream begins transformation

Construction is nearly complete for the restoration of Mill Creek in Montgomery County, Maryland. With riffle grade control structures  now in place, Biohabitats’ design is beginning to transform what was once a highly degraded stream impacted by intense, surrounding development, into a stable, functioning ecosystem that is now reconnected to its former floodplain. The effort to restore Mill Creek is one of the Maryland State Highway Administration’s environmental stewardship  projects, related to the state’s Intercounty Connector, an 18-mile, multi-modal east-west highway linking two counties.


Biohabitats staff members have been all over the globe recently, both working to help build resilient communities and to exchange information.

Visiting New Zealand

Ecologist Suzanne Hoehne spent a month in Auckland, New Zealand, as part of a Rotary Group Study Exchange program. While there, Suzanne toured and met with staff from the Rangitoto Island Preserve, Land Care Research, and numerous other sites and institutions. Suzanne shared her observations of Aukland’s green roofs, the state of stormwater management in New Zealand, and other topics in a series of blog posts.

Rare Journey into North Korea

Earlier this year, Biohabitats president Keith Bowers traveled to Pyongyang, North Korea as an invited participant in a seminar on the country’s environmental crisis. Keith wrote about this journey, one only a handful of western scientists have experienced, in the November 24 issue of New Scientist.

Colombia, South America

Engineers Alan Garrido and Michael Lighthiser went to  San Agustin, Huila in Colombia, South America to speak to attendees at the Uso Racional del Agua (Rational Use of Water) conference, which was organized by Professor Miguel Cifuentes from the Universidad Surcolombiana. While in Colombia, they also had the chance to meet with members of the Colombian Green Building Council. Michael’s impressions of the biodiversity and beauty of the region and the environmental ethic of its people are captured in his blog post: “Colombia: observations of a Gringo.”

Michael Ogden and Jennifer Zielinski traveled to China’s Anhui Province to help a client better understand water resources for a planned development in the region’s interior. Michael also returned to Kandahar, Afghanistan, to continue work he began there in 2003. Michael is conducting workshops for Afghan engineers and architects on the design of wastewater collection and wastewater treatment systems.  In his descriptions of both trips, Michael reminds us not only of the comforts, but of the information, tools, and standards we often take for granted in the U.S.

Anhui Province: Back to Basics

By Michael Ogden

We had been asked by our Client SWA to participate in a second regional master planning exercise involving a small (22,000 ha/ 86 sq. miles) portion of Anhui Province. The Chinese government has encouraged the private sector to participate in the Integrated Rural Urban Planning (IRUP) process. The primary goal is to bring development to the interior regions of China. Half the population of China is living in poverty, the other half approaching OECD standards.

Part of our task was to visit the site and review the local water resources. The government’s goal is to bring prosperity to the interior regions by incorporating modern agricultural practices, industrialized food processing facilities, farm worker housing, universities, conference centers, medical facilities, tourist accommodations, elder care, and retirement villages in a coherent master plan.

Large tracts of traditional farms are to be converted to peach and pear orchards and organic farms in large contiguous farming operations. Our Chinese Client’s model is based on his experiences working with Del Monte in their Central Valley operations in California.  Our particular task is to determine the water demand to support both the existing and proposed new development.

In our tour of the countryside we got to look at irrigation/storm water reservoirs, see municipal water systems, ask questions of the local farm managers and the regional communist party managers. We could make some guesses about run-off coefficients, and current water management practices.

The kind of information that we take for granted in the U.S. is not available so we have work with what is available. For example we would love to know the capacity of this reservoir…how many cubic meters of storage, typical annual volume of discharge. The locals gave us some numbers, but the party officials reminded us that surface water stored in reservoirs cannot be used for irrigation.

Although the Chinese can build a high speed train, they do not have gauging stations on their streams, daily rainfall records for our project area for the past 20 years, or production records of fruit production (it is the same every year, rain or drought and coincidently the same as the FAO averages). We have no idea about whether or not the aquifers are being over pumped, how big they are, or are there such things as downstream users’ rights.

Like these villagers we have to go back to basic concepts to develop our report. One of tasks is to estimate the amount of water it takes to wash the peaches prior to packing or canning. In this case we are able to use US practices from California which are incredibly water efficient. We can also suggest standards for water and wastewater treatment and reuse

水是生命 If we could read Chinese, this would have meaning (water is life), as would the rural cultural and farming traditions. Fortunately much of what engineers do is a universal language and is readily understood by our counterparts in China.

Kandahar: A Vision in Need of Protection

By Michael Ogden

Kandahar represents a real challenge for many reasons not the least of which is the climate.

I was first asked to visit Afghanistan in 2003 by the brother of President Karzai.  The Karzai family is from the southern city of Kandahar, which is an extremely hot and dry region of Afghanistan. The annual rainfall averages 4 inches.  The family had been given title to a very larger parcel of land (40+ km2) on the northeast side of Kandahar. As the photo indicates, it was apparently not of great value.

However, Mahmood Karzai, the brother of the President, saw the potential for developing a community of 240,000 people.  There is water in an underground aquifer and in an irrigation canal built in the 60’s with US AID funding. So the challenge in 2003 was to teach the Afghans how to design and build wastewater and water systems.  They thought they could do so without any training.  After 9 years, I was again contacted to sort things out.

Afghanistan needs trained engineers and architects. As you might imagine after 30 years of war, anybody who could leave did so, but some returned after 2000 and began the rebuilding process.  So my task while there was to teach classes on the design of a small diameter wastewater collection systems and wastewater treatment, as well as to review site conditions and progress to date.

Design standards that we accept for granted, such as separation of water and sewer lines, were unheard of; sewer lines were placed on both sides of the street, and grossly oversized. Existing sewers discharge into open canals- there is no wastewater treatment.

The scale of the project is quite large with tens of kilometers of sewer lines to be designed and installed. Part of our current task is to review the work of the engineering team, and to ensure that they understand the design principles. Projects of this size are quite unusual and it is unlikely that any of these young men will ever be involved in a project of such scale.

It is hard to imagine the transformation that is taking place that is the result of the vision of the Karzai family. The challenge will be completing the project as many of the Afghans begin leaving the country.


Most Americans have no idea what life is like in this part of the world. Material poverty  is evident, but the children are well cared for, and people are not starving, and right now bombs are not falling. The bread and food are great. Housing is being built and over 700,000 trees have been planted. The potential is there, but this vision will have to be defended.


If you’ve called our Chesapeake Bioregion office any time over the last couple of months, you have likely spoken with life-long Baltimore native (and Orioles fan!) Erica Robak. Erica is now manning the front desk. At York College of Pennsylvania, Erica studied psychology with a special interest in sustainability. She is excited to provide administrative support for projects that positively affect the environment and actively involve the local community. As a kid, Erica wanted to be a storm-chaser (yes, as in the classic film, Twister), which proves helpful as she tackles the daily whirlwind of office activity. Though she no longer spends her afternoons jumping off her porch holding a golf umbrella, Erica is still a shameless cloud-watcher and enthusiastic supporter of all things Biohabitats!

With her passion for the outdoors, love of science, and environmental engineering degree from Johns Hopkins University, engineering intern Emma McGowan fits right into the Biohabitats family. When you add her skills as a pastry chef and chocolatier, well…now we’re talking Employee of the Month! A long way from her childhood home in western Massachusetts, Emma is working out of Biohabitats’ Southwest Basin & Range Bioregion office in Santa Fe. She is immersed in several projects, as staff members are taking full advantage of her technical skills and enthusiasm (not to mention the pastries she brings to meetings).

From February 3-9, Senior engineer, Pete Munoz will teach a design-build workshop on constructed wetlands at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas. Students will be introduced to the basic principles of domestic wastewater treatment with natural systems and explore the major design considerations including treatment requirements, process flow diagrams, and process selection. System analysis, site investigation, permitting, treatment options, design basics and material selection will all be covered. Click here for more information.

The name “Keith Bowers” is increasingly popping up on the news stands. Biohabitats’ president was featured, along with a few of the firm’s projects, in a special “Sustainability” section of the November/December issue of Urban Land Magazine. As we mentioned earlier, Keith’s description of his trip to North Korea, including his impressions of the country’s scarred landscape, was featured in a recent issue of New Scientist.  An editorial entitled “Reestablishing a Healthy and Resilient North America–Linking Ecological Restoration with Continental Habitat Connectivity” can be found in the December issue of the journal Ecological Restoration.

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