Challenges and developments of bioretention facilities in treating urban stormwater runoff; A review

Document Type : Review Paper


1 River Engineering and Urban Drainage Research Centre (REDAC), Engineering Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Seri Ampangan, 14300 Nibong Tebal, Penang, Malaysia

2 Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universitiy Teknologi PETRONAS, 31750, Tronoh, Perak, Malaysi



Bioretention or rain garden is a preferable low impact development (LID) approach due to its characteristics which reflect natural water cycle processes. However, this system is still little understood and quite complicated in terms of design and implementation due to many technical considerations. Hence, this paper gives a review of the challenges and developments for the use of bioretention facilities to enhance its capabilities in attenuating peak flow and treating stormwater runoff particularly in urban areas. This paper reviews the main aspects of bioretention which are stormwater hydrologic, hydraulic and treatment performance. Some of the limitations during the implementation of this natural approach are highlighted in design configuration and the public perception towards this new approach. It is concluded that the bioretention approach is one of the sustainable solutions for stormwater management that can be applied either for individual systems or regional systems. 


Ahmad, M.N., Mokhtar, M.N., Baharuddin, A.S., Hock, L.S., Ali, S.R.A., Abd-Aziz, S., Rahman, N.A.A. and Hassan, M.A. (2011). Changes in physicochemical and microbial community during co-composting of oil palm frond with palm oil mill effluent anaerobic sludge. BioResources, 6(4), 4762-4780.
Akan, O. (2013). Preliminary Design Aid for Bioretention Filters. J. of Hydrologic Engineering, 18(3), 318-323.
Al-Hamati, A.A.N., Ghazali, A.H. and Mohammed, T.A. (2010). Determination of storage volume required in a sub-surface stormwater detention/retention system. J. of Hydro-environment Research, 4(1), 47-53.
Alcala, M., Jr., Jones, K.D., Ren, J. and Andreassen, T.E. (2009). Compost product optimization for surface water nitrate treatment in biofiltration applications. Bioresour Technol, 100(17), 3991-6.
Asleson, B.C., Nestingen, R.S., Gulliver, J.S., Hozalski, R.M., and Nieber, J.L. (2009). Performance assessment of rain gardens. J. of The American Water Resources Association, 45(4), 1019-1031.
Bachmann, N.J. (2006). Rain Garden Design and Construction Guidelines. Michigan.
Bakacs, M.E., Yergeau, S.E. and Obropta, C.C. (2013). Assessment of Car Wash Runoff Treatment Using Bioretention Mesocosms. J. of Environmental Engineering, 139(8), 1132-1136.
Barrett, M., Limouzin, M. and Lawler, D. (2013). Effects of media and plant selection on biofiltration performance. J. of Environmental Engineering, 139(4), 462-470.
Bayat, H., Sedaghat, A., Safari Sinegani, A.A. and Gregory, A.S. (2015). Investigating the relationship between unsaturated hydraulic conductivity curve and confined compression curve. J. of Hydrology, 522(0), 353-368.
Belkhatir, M., Arab, A., Della, N. and Schanz, T. (2013). Laboratory study on the hydraulic conductivity and pore pressure of sand-silt mixtures. Marine Georesources & Geotechnology, 32(2), 106-122.
Benson, C., Sawangsuriya, A., Trzebiatowski, B. and Albright, W. (2007). Postconstruction changes in the hydraulic properties of water balance cover soils. J. of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, 133(4), 349-359.
Blecken, G.T., Marsalek, J. and Viklander, M. (2010a). Laboratory study of stormwater biofiltration in low temperatures: Total and Dissolved Metal Removals and Fates. Water, Air & Soil Pollution, 219(1-4), 303-317.
Blecken, G.T., Zinger, Y., Deletić, A., Fletcher, T.D., Hedström, A. and Viklander, M. (2010b). Laboratory study on stormwater biofiltration: Nutrient and sediment removal in cold temperatures. J. of Hydrology, 394(3–4), 507-514.
Blecken, G.T., Zinger, Y., Deletić, A., Fletcher, T. D. and Viklander, M. (2009). Impact of a submerged zone and a carbon source on heavy metal removal in stormwater biofilters. Ecological Engineering, 35(5), 769-778.
Blecken, G.T., Zinger, Y., Muthanna, T.M., Deletic, A., Fletcher, T.D. and Viklander, M. (2007). The influence of temperature on nutrient treatment efficiency in stormwater biofilter systems. Water Sci Technol, 56(10), 83-91.
Brander, K.E., Owen, K.E. and Potter, K.W. (2004). Modeled impacts of development type on runoff volume and infiltration performance. Journal of the American Water Resources Association(JAWRA), 40(4), 961-969.
Bratieres, K., Fletcher, T.D., Deletic, A. and Zinger, Y. (2008). Nutrient and sediment removal by stormwater biofilters: a large-scale design optimisation study. Water Res, 42(14), 3930-40.
Bright, T., Hathaway, J., Hunt, W., de los Reyes, F. and Burchell, M. (2010). Impact of storm-water runoff on clogging and fecal bacteria reduction in sand columns. J. of Environmental Engineering, 136(12), 1435-1441.
Brown, R. A. (2011). Evaluation of bioretention hydrology and pollutant removal in the upper coastal plain of North Carolina with development of a bioretention modeling application in DRAINMOD. Dissertation, North Carolina State University.
Brown, R.A. and Hunt III, W.F. (2011). Impacts of media depth on effluent water quality and hydrologic performance of undersized bioretention cells. J. of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, 137(3), 132-143.
Brown, R.A. and Hunt, W.F. (2011). Impacts of media depth on effluent water quality and hydrologic performance of undersized bioretention cells. J. of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, 137(3), 132-143.
Brown, R.A. and Hunt III, W.F. (2010). Impacts of construction activity on bioretention performance. J. of hydrologic engineering, 15(6), 386-394.
Brown, R. and Hunt, W. (2009). Effects of media depth on bioretention performance in the upper coastal plain of North Carolina and bioretention construction impacts study. World Environmental and Water Resources Congress,1-10.
Candemir, F. and Gülser, C. (2012). Influencing factors and prediction of hydraulic conductivity in fine-textured alkaline soils. Arid Land Research and Management, 26(1), 15-31.
Carpenter, D.D. and Hallam, L. (2010). Influence of planting soil mix characteristics on bioretention cell design and performance. J. of Hydrologic Engineering, 15(6), 404-416.
Chan, N.W. (2012). Managing urban flood hazards in Malaysia: emerging issues and challenges. The 3rd International Academic Consortium For Sustainable Cities Symposium (IACSC 2012), Bangkok, Thailand. Thammasat University, September, 154-159.
Chavez, R., Brown, G. and Storm, D. (2013). Impact of variable hydraulic conductivity on bioretention cell performance and implications for construction standards. J. of Hydraulic Engineering, 139(7), 707-715.
Cho, K.W., Song, K.G., Cho, J.W., Kim, T.G. and Ahn, K.H. (2009). Removal of nitrogen by a layered soil infiltration system during intermittent storm events. Chemosphere, 76(5), 690-696.
Clar, M., Laramore, E. and Ryan, H. (2009). Rethinking bioretention design concepts. Low impact development: New and Continuing Applications, 119.
Clar, M., Laramore, E. and Ryan, H. (2007). Rethinking bioretention design concepts. In: ASCE, ed. Proceedings of the Second National Low Impact Development Conference, North Carolina, 119-127.
Coffman, L.S. and Siviter, T.(2007). Filterra by Americast: An advanced sustainable stormwater treatment system. Proceedings of the Second National Low Impact Development Conference, North Carolina. ACSE, 171-181.
Davis, A.P. (2008). Field performance of bioretention: Hydrology impacts. J. of Hydrologic Engineering, 13(2), 90-95.
Davis, A.P., Shokouhian, M., Sharma, H. and Minami, C. (2006). Water quality improvement through bioretention media: Nitrogen and phosphorus removal. Water Environment Research, 78(3), 284-293.
Davis, A.P. and McCuen, R.H. (2005). Vegetative control method: bioretention. Stormwater Management for Smart Growth. New York: Springer.
Davis, A.P., Shokouhian, M., Sharma, H. and Minami, C. (2001). Laboratory study of biological retention for urban stormwater management. Water Environment Research, 5-14.
DeBusk, K. M., Hunt, W.F. and Line, D.E. (2011). Bioretention outflow: Does it mimic nonurban watershed shallow interflow? J. of Hydrologic Engineering, 16(3), 274-279.
DeBusk, K.M. and Wynn, T.M. (2011). Storm-water bioretention for runoff quality and quantity mitigation. J. of Environmental Engineering, 137(9), 800-808.
DID (2012). Stormwater management manual for Malaysia: Bioretention systems. Kuala Lumpur: Department of Drainage and Irrigation (DID), Malaysia.
Estes, C.J. (2007). Storm water infiltration in clay soils: A case study of storm water retention and infiltration techniques in the North Carolina piedmont. Proceedings of the Second National Low Impact Development Conference, North Carolina. ACSE, 159-170.
Fletcher, T.D., Shuster, W., Hunt, W.F., Ashley, R., Butler, D., Arthur, S., Trowsdale, S., Barraud, S., Semadeni-Davies, A., Bertrand-Krajewski, J. L., Mikkelsen, P.S., Rivard, G., Uhl, M., Dagenais, D. and Viklander, M. (2014). SUDS, LID, BMPs, WSUD and more– The evolution and application of terminology surrounding urban drainage. Urban Water J., 1-18.
Geronimo, F.K.F., Maniquiz-Redillas, M.C. and Kim, L. H. (2014). Fate and removal of nutrients in bioretention systems. Desalination and Water Treatment, 1-8.
Gilroy, K.L. and McCuen, R.H. (2009). Spatio-temporal effects of low impact development practices. J. of Hydrology, (367)228-236.
Glaister, B.J., Fletcher, T.D., Cook, P.L. and Hatt, B.E. (2014). Co-optimisation of phosphorus and nitrogen removal in stormwater biofilters: the role of filter media, vegetation and saturated zone. Water Science & Technology, 69(9), 1961-1969.
Good, J.F., O'Sullivan, A.D., Wicke, D. and Cochrane, T.A. (2012). Contaminant removal and hydraulic conductivity of laboratory rain garden systems for stormwater treatment. Water Sci. Technol, 65(12), 2154-61.
Grebel, J.E., Mohanty, S.K., Torkelson, A.A., Boehm, A.B., Higgins, C.P., Maxwell, R.M., Nelson, K.L. and Sedlak, D.L. (2013). Engineered infiltration systems for urban stormwater reclamation. Environmental Engineering Science, 30(8), 437-454.
Guo, H., Lim, F.Y., Zhang, Y., Lee, L.Y., Hu, J.Y., Ong, S.L., Yau, W.K. and Ong, G.S. (2014). Soil column studies on the performance evaluation of engineered soil mixes for bioretention systems. Desalination and Water Treatment, 1-7.
Hatt, B.E., Fletcher, T.D. and Deletic, A. (2008). Hydraulic and pollutant removal performance of fine media stormwater filtration systems. Environmental Science & Technology, 42(7), 2535-2541.
Hatt, B.E., Fletcher, T.D. and Deletic, A. (2009). Hydrologic and pollutant removal performance of stormwater biofiltration systems at the field scale. J. of Hydrology, 365(3–4), 310-321.
Heasom, W., Traver, R.G. and Welker, A. (2006). Hydrologic modeling of a bioinfiltration best management practice. J. of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA), 42(5), 1329-1347.
Houdeshel, C.D., Hultine, K.R., Johnson, N.C. and Pomeroy, C.A. (2015). Evaluation of three vegetation treatments in bioretention gardens in a semi-arid climate. Landscape and Urban Planning, 135(0), 62-72.
Hsieh, C. and Davis, A.P. (2005). Evaluation and optimization of bioretention media for treatment of urban storm water runoff. J. of Environmental Engineering, 131(11), 1521-1531.
Hunt, W., Jarrett, A., Smith, J. and Sharkey, L. (2006). Evaluating bioretention hydrology and nutrient removal at three field sites in North Carolina. J. of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, 132(6), 600-608.
Hurley, S.E. and Forman, R.T. (2011). Stormwater ponds and biofilters for large urban sites: Modeled arrangements that achieve the phosphorus reduction target for Boston's Charles River, USA. Ecological Engineering, (37) 850-863.
Jenkins, J. K., Wadzuk, B.M. and Welker, A.L. (2010). Fines accumulation and distribution in a storm-water rain garden nine years postconstruction. J. of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, 136(12), 862-869.
Le Coustumer, S., Fletcher, T.D., Deletic, A. and Barraud, S. (2007). Hydraulic performance of biofilters for stormwater management: first lessons from both laboratory and field studies. Water Sci. Technol, 56(10), 93-100.
Le Coustumer, S., Fletcher, T.D., Deletic, A., Barraud, S. and Lewis, J.F. (2009). Hydraulic performance of biofilter systems for stormwater management: Influences of design and operation. J. of Hydrology, 376(1–2), 16-23.
Le Coustumer, S., Fletcher, T.D., Deletic, A., Barraud, S. and Poelsma, P. (2012). The influence of design parameters on clogging of stormwater biofilters: a large-scale column study. Water Res., 46(20), 6743-52.
Le Coustumer, S., Fletcher, T.D., Deletic, A. and Potter, M. (2008). Hydraulic performance of biofilter systems for stormwater management: lessons from a field study. Melbourne Water Corporation.
Li, H., Sharkey, L., Hunt, W. and Davis, A. (2009). Mitigation of impervious surface hydrology using bioretention in North Carolina and Maryland. J. of Hydrologic Engineering, 14(4), 407-415.
Lim, H.S., Lim, W., Hu, J.Y., Ziegler, A. and Ong, S.L. (2015). Comparison of filter media materials for heavy metal removal from urban stormwater runoff using biofiltration systems. J. of Environmental Management, 147(0), 24-33.
Liu, J., Sample, D.J., Bell, C. and Guan, Y. (2014). Review and research needs of bioretention used for the treatment of urban stormwater. Water, 6(4), 1069-1099.
Liu, Q., Cui, X., Zhang, C. and Huang, S. (2016). Experimental investigation of suspended particles transport through porous media: particle and grain size effect. Environmental Technology, 37(7), 854-864
Low Impact Development (LID) (2007). Urban Design Tools: Low Impact Development [Online]. Maryland. Available: [Accessed 21 January 2015 2015].
Lawrence Technological University (LTU) (2011). Great Lake of Stormwater Management Institute. LTU Home [Online].Available:
Lucas, W.C. (2010). Design of integrated bioinfiltration-detention urban retrofits with design storm and continuous simulation methods. J. of Hydrologic Engineering, 15(6), 486-498.
Lucas, W.C. and Greenway, M. (2011). Hydraulic response and nitrogen retention in bioretention mesocosms with regulated outlets: Part I—Hydraulic Response. Water Environment Research, 83(8), 692-702.
Masrouri, F., Bicalho, K.V. and Kawai, K. (2008). Laboratory hydraulic testing in unsaturated soils. Laboratory and Field Testing of Unsaturated Soils. Springer.
Melbourne Water (2005). WSUD Engineering Procedures: Stormwater. CSIRO Publishing.
Nestor, L.S. (2006). Modelling the infiltration process woth a multi layer perceptron artificial neural network. Hydrological Science Journal, 51(1), 3-20.
North Shore City (2008). North Shore City Bioretention Guidelines. Auckland, New Zealand.
Palheygi, G.E. (2010). Modeling and sizing bioretention using flow duration control. J. of Hydrologic Engineering, 15(6), 417-425.
Paus, K., Morgan, J., Gulliver, J. and Hozalski, R. (2014). Effects of bioretention media compost volume fraction on toxic metals removal, hydraulic conductivity, and phosphorous release. J. of Environmental Engineering, 140(10), 04014033.
PUB (2011). Engineering procedures for ABC Waters Design Features Chapter 7: Bioretention Basins. Singapore.
Read, J., Wevill, T., Fletcher, T. and Deletic, A. (2008). Variation among plant species in pollutant removal from stormwater in biofiltration systems. Water Res, 42(4-5), 893-902.
Reddi, L.N., Ming, X., Hajra, M.G., and Lee, I.M. (2000). Permeability reduction of soil filters due to physical clogging. J. of Geotechnical and Geoenvironmental Engineering, 126(3), 236-246.
Selbig, W.R. (2013). Characterizing the distribution of particles in urban stormwater: advancements through improved sampling technology. Urban Water J., 12(2), 111-119.
Shuster, W.D., Bonta, J., Thurston, H., Warnemuende, E. and Smith, D.R. (2005). Impacts of impervious surface on watershed hydrology: A review. Urban Water J., 2(4), 263-275.
Sidek, L., Mohiyaden, H.A., Lee, L.K. and Foo, K.Y. (2016). Potential of engineered biomedia for the innovative purification of contaminated river water. Desalination and Water Treatment, 1-12.
Siriwardene, N.R., Deletic, A. and Fletcher, T.D. (2007). Clogging of stormwater gravel infiltration systems and filters: insights from a laboratory study. Water Res, 41(7), 1433-40.
Stander, E.K. and Borst, M. (2010). Hydraulic test of a bioretention media carbon amendment. J. of Hydrologic Engineering, 15(6), 531-536.
Takaijudin, H., Ghani, A.Ab., Zakaria, N.A., Lau and T.L. (2015). The influence of filter depths in capturing nutrient contaminants for non-vegetated bioretention column: A perliminary study. 36th IAHR World Congress, July, The Hague, Netherlands. IAHR.
The Prince George County (2009). The Bioretention Manual. Chapter 4:Sizing and Design Guidance. Maryland: Environmental Services Division Department of Environmental Resources  The Prince George's County, Maryland.
Thompson, A.M., Paul, A.C. and Balster, N.J. (2008). Physical and hydraulic properties of engineered soil media for bioretention basins. Trans. ASABE, 51(2), 499-514.
Yang, H., Florence, D.C., McCoy, E.L., Dick, W.A. and Grewal, P.S. (2009). Design and hydraulic characteristics of a field-scale bi-phasic bioretention rain garden system for storm water management. Water Sci. Technol., 59(9), 1863-72.