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EPA Recognizes University of Arizona and Arizona State University, Winners of Annual Campus RainWorks Challenge

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Denise Adamic (

PHOENIX – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized the University of Arizona and Arizona State University as winners of its eighth annual Campus RainWorks Challenge, a national competition that engages college students in the design of on-campus green infrastructure solutions to help address stormwater pollution. This year’s winning projects demonstrate innovative design and illustrate the health and environmental benefits of good stormwater management.

“Stormwater runoff is a significant source of water pollution in America, and managing runoff remains a complex environmental challenge for local communities across the Pacific Southwest,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator John Busterud. “This year’s winners have skillfully transformed classroom knowledge into innovative and replicable solutions for stormwater management in Arizona.”

EPA’s Campus RainWorks Challenge asks students and faculty members at colleges and universities across the country to apply green infrastructure design principles, foster interdisciplinary collaboration and increase the use of green infrastructure on the nation’s college campuses. Since 2012 more than 700 teams have participated in the challenge. 

This year EPA invited student teams to compete in two design categories. The Master Plan category examines how green infrastructure can be broadly integrated across campus while the Demonstration Project category focuses on how green infrastructure can address stormwater pollution at a specific site on campus. With the help of a faculty advisor, teams of students focused their expertise, creativity and energy on the challenges of stormwater management and showcased the environmental, economic and social benefits of green infrastructure.

University of Arizona won 2nd Place in the Master Plan Category. Their “Against the Grain” project integrated multiple green infrastructure practices into a master plan design that revitalized key transportation and pedestrian corridors. This project sought to enhance flood protection through inclusion of bioretention facilities with native plants and trees and treat stormwater runoff as a resource by incorporating cisterns for irrigation. Watch the team’s video about their project:

“We are proud of the achievements of our faculty and talented students who are winning the prestigious EPA RainWorks Challenge for the third year in a row,” said Nancy Pollock-Ellwand, Dean, College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture at the University of Arizona. “Their project demonstrates the need for a certain kind of scholar and designer who considers things critically, and imaginatively. The integrated stormwater solutions these students have developed speak to the realities of a desert landscape where rains come infrequently, but with incredible force.”

Arizona State University won 2nd Place in the Demonstration Project Category. In their project titled “Ready! Set! Activate!” this team worked with a local elementary school to reduce local flooding during Arizona’s monsoon season and create a resilient, multi-functional space that effectively manages stormwater runoff and yields educational and ecological benefits. Watch the team’s video about their project:

This project allowed for collaboration between a charter school serving minority and economically underserved children and ASU researchers and students to address environmental justice and equity in health and education,” said Chingwen Cheng, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture in The Design School at Arizona State University. “Our students gained first-hand experience working with the community and seeing that their design concepts would be realized in the near future. This is an invaluable service-learning experience for students and directly benefits under-served communities.”   

EPA is also pleased to recognize the University of California at Los Angeles with 1st place in the Demonstration Project category. The University of California at Berkeley received honorable mention in the same category. First place in the Master Plan category was awarded to Florida International University.


Green infrastructure tools and techniques for stormwater management include green roofs, permeable materials, alternative designs for streets and buildings, trees, habitat conservation, rain gardens and rain harvesting systems. Utilizing these tools decreases pollution to local waterways by treating rain where it falls and keeping polluted stormwater from entering sewer systems. Communities are increasingly using innovative green infrastructure to supplement “gray” infrastructure such as pipes, filters and ponds. Green infrastructure reduces water pollution while increasing economic activity and neighborhood revitalization, job creation, energy savings and open space.

First-place teams will receive a $5,000 student prize to be split among team members and a $5,000 faculty prize to support green infrastructure research and training. Second-place teams will receive a $2,500 student prize and a $2,500 faculty prize. Designs were completed and submitted to EPA last fall for review and consideration. 

Learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region, which implements and enforces federal environmental laws in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific islands, and 148 tribal nations Connect with us on Facebook and on Twitter.