Wilson's rain simulators are being used to determine which surfaces generate the most pollution in downtown Minneapolis.

October 2, 2017

Note: The following is an excerpt from Mississippi Watershed Management Organization's blog

In early 2017, staff from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization's water quality monitoring team joined with researchers from the University of Minnesota Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering to collect samples of runoff from strategically chosen locations downtown. The team is analyzing the water quality characteristics of each of the samples, with the goal of determining which types of surfaces are producing the most polluted runoff.

We’re collecting samples from a total of 12 different sites, which includes three of each type of surface targeted by the study. To get a more accurate representation of the runoff characteristics, the team is collecting the data at three different times throughout the year — once each in the summer, fall, and spring. Doing so will allow them to account for seasonal fluctuations in pollutant levels (think leaves in the fall and road salt in the spring).

Collecting these samples proved to be a tricky endeavor. In the case of the rooftop sites, the team had to devise a way to capture runoff and divert it so that it could be sampled using automated equipment. Meanwhile, capturing runoff from heavily trafficked streets, sidewalks and parking lots proved to be even more challenging. To ensure their data-collection methods were sound, the team needed to find a way to simulate rain events artificially.

Professor Bruce Wilson had a solution: rain simulators.

Read more on MWMO's blog