Welcome to Environmental Inquiry: authentic scientific research for high school students  
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 Invasive Species
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 Assessing Toxic Risk
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Stormwater Runoff in Roadside DitchesDitch photo

Roadside ditches drain stormwater from roads, fields, parking lots, and buildings. Ditches are designed and managed to prevent flooding of these structures by providing rapid flow of runoff water. However, impacts on quantity and quality of water in streams and lakes typically is not considered when ditches are designed, built, and maintained.

Very few studies have investigated the contribution of roadside ditches to downstream waters. Students investigations can focus on questions such as these:

  • Where does the water go? When stormwater flows through ditches, does it empty into streams?

  • How are ditches currently managed, and how could they be managed to minimize harm to streams and lakes?

  • How do the quantity and quality of water flowing through ditches compare with the water in streams?

  • What are the impacts of ditches on stream habitat and hydrology?

Getting Started (Curriculum resources for teachers)

More information about ditch studies:
What do roadside ditches have to do with water quantity and quality?
Why study ditches?
How do ditches relate to streams?
How do impervious surfaces affect water quantity and quality?
What ditch research is being carried out at Cornell University?
What did the pilot study discover?
How does this research relate to ditch management?
How can you participate in Cornell's ditch project?
What are some topics for student ditch research?
How does this relate to EPA’s Phase II Stormwater Management Regulations?