Controlling diffuse pollution in urban areas using biofiltration systems

Lead Academic – Christian Berretta (Leeds)

Virginia Stovin (Sheffield)
Alistair Boxall (York)

This project focuses on opportunities associated with the application of biofiltration systems for stormwater management and water quality protection in urban areas.Biofiltration systems are landscaped SuDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems) consisting of a vegetated surface layer, multi-layered growing media (0.7-1.0 m deep), and an underdrain. Depending on configuration they may include a permanently saturated zone. They can be installed above or below ground, and provide a number of pollutant removal mechanisms (e.g. filtration, adsorption and biological treatment) which make them a promising option for dealing with urban road runoff. The vertical arrangement of treatment stages leads to a relatively compact footprint, making these systems potentially a viable retrofit option even for dense urban areas. 

The choice of plants, media composition and drainage configuration all impact upon hydrological and water quality performance. The ultimate objective of the proposed collaboration is to develop a deep understanding of biofiltration performance, leading to system refinements that optimise performance for prioritised hydrological and water quality objectives.


Berretta, CAiello, AJensen, HS, Tillotson, MR, Boxall, A and Stovin, V, (2018). Influence of design and media amendments on the performance of stormwater biofilters. Proceedings of the ICE – Water Management, 171 (2). pp. 87-98. ISSN 1741-7589

Other academics involved with the project

Henriette Jensen (University of Sheffield,
Lecturer in Chemical and Biological Engineering)
Jane Thomas-Oates (University of York, Professor
of Analytical Science, Director of the Centre of
Excellence in Mass Spectrometry)
Nigel Wright (University of Leeds, Head of School
of Civil Engineering)
Martin Tillotson (University of Leeds, Professor
of Water Management, Director water@leeds