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Research and Innovation Project: Concepts of sustainable usage of decentral infiltration swales in urban areas (KONVERt)


Using bioretention systems for decentralised infiltration of precipitation runoff in urban areas has several economic and ecological advantages compared to drainage using the public sewerage system. Although the technical conception of bioretention systems is clearly defined we lack systematic results whether bioretention systems still work properly after being operated for 15-20 years. Especially the period during which heavy metal retention in the system’s substrate can be guaranteed is of high uncertainty. Consequently, operation permits of bioretention systems incorporate high temporal safety margins to ensure the retention of pollutants dissolved in the runoff. Hence, the cost-benefit ratio of bioretention systems for draining precipitation is reduced compared to conventional sewer drainage.

The project KONVERt aims to assess the risk of heavy metal leaching from long-term operated bioretention systems. Therefore, we conduct four monitoring sites at bioretention systems equipped with event-driven seepage collectors to determine the in situ concentration of the mobile heavy metal fraction. All measurements are conducted for at least one year to consider intra-annual variations of heavy metal mobilisation. The seepage measurements are complemented with measurements of the meteorological boundary conditions. Furthermore, we measure the spatial extent of initial heavy metal concentration and sorption parameters. Both measures are used for a downstream simulation of soil hydrological and chemical conditions. The modelling aims to assess the long-term risk potential of a heavy metal leaching into groundwater bodies. Furthermore, we use the modelling for predictions of metal leaching under varying scenarios such as cycles of maintenance and restoration.

Both, measurement and modelling results are then synthesized to derivate recommendations addressed to practitioners. Together with results from the former project LEIREV, all gained knowledge is then transferred into a handbook for authorities, planners and operators outlining how a sustainable use of bioretention systems can be ensured.


Project coordination:

Founded by:

  • North Rhine-Westphalia State Agency for Nature, Environment and Consumer Protection (LANUV NRW); support programme “Ressourceneffiziente Abwasserbeseitigung NRW, Förderprogramm 6”.


  • 11/2017-04/2020

Collaboration partners:


  • Reck, A., Paton, E., Kuge, B. 2019: Advanced in-situ soil water sampling system for monitoring solute fluxes in the vadose zone. Vadose Zone Journal. doi: 10.2136/vzj2019.01.0008
  • Kluge, B., Markert, A., Facklam, M., Sommer, H., Pallasch, M., Wessolek, G. 2016. Metal accumulation and hydraulic performance of bioretention systems after long-term operation. Journal of Soil and Sediments, 1-11. doi: 10.1007/s11368-016-1533-z
  • Former project LEIREV






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