Stormwater ponds greenhouse gas emissions project

Worldwide, stormwater management (SWM) systems are being expanded and retrofitted to counter the negative impacts of urbanization which include increased flooding, water quality degradation and eutrophication of receiving aquatic ecosystems.

In Canada, stormwater ponds (SWPs) are the standard SWM technology for new developments although other green technologies, especially bioretention systems (BRSs), are increasingly used. SWPs and BRSs have been shown to be significant sources of the greenhouse gases (GHGs) carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. However, they also sequester carbon (C) and reduce the surface runoff of nutrients such as phosphorus (P), hence, altering nutrient limitation patterns, trophic conditions, and GHG exchanges along the urban aquatic continuum and in receiving water bodies. 

The SWP GHG Missions project will address this by: (1) quantifying the landscape-scale drivers and processes within SWPs and BRSs that control GHG exchanges, C sequestration, and changes in the chemical speciation and fluxes of C and P; (2) integrating the resulting knowledge into robust representations of SWPs and BRSs in coupled hydrology-biogeochemistry models for urban watersheds; and (3) using model simulations to analyze the responses of urban GHG emissions and nutrient P export to the implementation and management of green SWM infrastructure. 

The SWP GHG Missions project focus on urban watersheds in southern Ontario with SWPs and BRSs whose hydrology and biogeochemistry we have already extensively characterized, hence, laying the foundation for expanding the model applications across Canada. The project's municipal and industrial partners will use the project's outcomes to (1) carry out interventions that reduce GHG emissions from existing SWPs and BRSs, and (2) develop green SWM strategies that minimize trade-offs between climate mitigation benefits and other key services, in particular, water quality protection.

Steph Slowinski sampling on a boat in the stormwater pond.

Contact Us

For questions about the SWP GHG Missions project, please contact Fereidoun Rezanezhad, University of Waterloo,  

Group photo of the greenhouse gas emissions team.
Stormwater pond
Stormwater pond

Photo: Stormwater management pond by Hooman Reza Nezhad

Floating chamber off a boat, sampling in the stormwater pond.

Our Team

The SWP GHG Missions research project consists of a multidisciplinary team of 7 faculty members, masters and Ph.D. students, and support staff. This interdisciplinary collaboration is instrumental in approaching the challenges and solutions associated with GHG emissions from the SWPs from a holistic perspective. 

In addition to the research team, the project is also supported by 6 partner organizations from industry, government, and the non profit sector to provide expertise and advice.

Principal Investigator

  • Philippe Van Cappellen (University of Waterloo)


  • Fereidoun Rezanezhad (University of Waterloo)
  • Andrea Brookfield (University of Waterloo)
  • Scott Smith (Wilfrid Laurier University)
  • Bahram Gharabaghi (University of Guelph)
  • Elodie​ Passeport (University of Toronto)


  • Kevin Stevens (Wilfrid Laurier University)
  • Stephanie Slowiski (Research Biogeochemist, University of Waterloo)
  • Kayla Martin (Field Technician, University of Waterloo)

Knowledge Mobilization

  • Nancy Goucher (University of Waterloo, Water Institute)

Data Management

  • Bhaleka Persaud (University of Waterloo, Ecohydrology)

Students and Postdoctoral Fellows

  • Jovana Radosavlijevic (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Md Abdus Sabur (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Danielle Green (MSc Student)
  • Della Zhou (MSc Student)
  • Harper Schmalz (MSc Student)
  • Ben DePetris (Research Assistant)

The project’s overarching goal is to critically assemble and propose solution options for urban green SWM infrastructure that optimize the reduction of GHG emissions without compromising the other SWM services, in particular water quality improvement. The SWP GHG Missions Project is divided into five work packages (WP) with specific tasks (T). This structure enables us to directly address the five main objectives of our project:

WP1: Identifying drivers of GHG emissions from green SWM infrastructure

T1.1 GHG emission data: acquisition, interpretation, and synthesis 

T1.2 Statistical predictors: LULC, climate, event characteristics, system design, and maintenance

WP2: Carbon sequestration in green SWM infrastructure: processes and rates

T2.1 Organic carbon: external and internal sources, sequestration pathways and export  

T2.2 Inorganic carbon: CO2 saturation and carbonate mineral sequestration potential  

WP3: Predicting GHG emissions from green SWM infrastructure: biogeochemical modeling

T3.1 Mass balance modeling of C, N and P in SWM infrastructure 

T3.2 Emission factors of CO2, CH4, and N2O for green SWM systems

WP4: Watershed trade-offs between SWM GHG mitigation and water quality protection

T4.1 Coupling watershed hydrology, GHG emissions, and nutrient phosphorus loads

T4.2 Optimizing reduction of SWM GHG and phosphorus export at the watershed scale

WP5: Nature-inspired SWM solutions to reduce GHG emissions

T5.1 Geochemical interventions to increase carbon sequestration in green SWM infrastructure

T5.2 Recommendations and guidelines for municipal and regional climate action  

Research Partners 

The SWP GHG Missions project is a highly integrated research project that relies on our partnerships with the private sector, governments, NGOs, and watershed organizations to provide an authentic and practical approach to our research. Working hand-in-hand with our research partners brings new insights, hands on experience and sophisticated understanding of the challenges and potential solutions to the fore. Our partners will play a critical role in transferring research outputs to the types of organizations and agencies that can use the results to improve their understanding and approach to the problem.

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada (Watershed Hydrology and Ecology ResearchDivision)
  • Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (Ecosystem and Climate Science Division)
  • City of Kitchener (Sanitary and Stormwater Utilities Division)
  • Ontario Clean Water Agency (Innovation and Infrastructure Solutions section)
  • Muslim Families (Blue Dot Stewards program)
  • Crozier Consulting Engineers
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
City of Kitchener
OCWA: Ontario Clean Water Agency
Crozier Consulting Engineers