Hydrologic processes regulate nutrient retention in stormwater detention ponds

Sci Total Environ. 2022 Jun 1;823:153722. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.153722. Epub 2022 Feb 9.


Managed stormwater ponds are abundant in urban landscapes in much of the world, performing vital but under-studied functions for attenuation of urban runoff and nutrient pollution. Water quality improvements are widely assumed to arise from settling of nutrients and other contaminants bound to particulates, with less consideration of hydrological and biogeochemical processes. To inform improved management of ponds for nutrient retention, we studied three mature urban detention ponds in the Twin Cities, MN, USA using continuous monitoring of pond hydrology and concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus, coupled with periodic measurement of physiochemical conditions in the ponds. Across the three sites, annual nutrient retention was high for both nitrogen (>58%) and phosphorus (>48%) despite expectations of poor performance for phosphorus due to old age and internal loading linked to hypolimnetic anoxia. Both annual and event-scale analyses suggested strong hydrologic controls on nutrient retention, with retention for individual storm events strongly regulated by antecedent pond storage capacity. Events with net nutrient export occurred primarily due to low volume retention rather than relatively high outflow concentrations. Together these results suggest that understanding and improving pond hydrologic function is crucial to improving managed stormwater pond performance for meeting downstream water quality goals.

Keywords: Detention ponds; Hydrology; Nitrogen; Phosphorus; Retention; Water quality.

MeSH terms

  • Hydrology
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Nutrients / analysis
  • Phosphorus / analysis
  • Ponds*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical* / analysis


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Phosphorus
  • Nitrogen