A few months ago, stepping over puddles on the patio at the T-Rex Cookie and Coffee Café in east Minneapolis, MN was a common occurrence after a storm. Today, thanks to the volunteer efforts of Kristine Maurer, an environmental scientist at Westwood, and Brittany Faust, a water resource staff member at the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization (MWMO), the café now has an effective stormwater management system in place. 

Because of the café’s urban location and largely impervious setting, rainwater running off the roof could not infiltrate into the ground effectively and pooled around the AC unit, flooding a portion of the patio and creating a dangerous utility setup. Kristine and Brittany analyzed the setting and the needs of the café before deciding on a best management practice (BMP). After considering all options, the team found a way to not only handle the stormwater but also improve the café’s outdoor atmosphere.  

The team installed a cistern onsite that captures 1,110 gallons of runoff from the café’s roof. The cistern helps improve water quality by reducing runoff velocity and setting out particulates and debris. The café can use the grey water from the cistern to care for their plants and newly planted greenwall. Overflow water is directed through a series of dry creek beds and bio-swales, providing a treatment train for stormwater runoff. The dry creek beds help to curb water velocity and collect particulates while reshaped and vegetated bioswales provide area for runoff to infiltrate and be used by plants.

Overall, Kristine says the project was a great collaboration of people and organizations. Kristine pulled in Westwood landscape architect Kevin Teppen to review the project design for workability. His concern about freezing runoff on the adjacent sidewalk during winter months provided Kristine with the idea to direct the water flow through an additional bio-swale and away from the sidewalk. She also worked with her alma mater, the University of St. Thomas. The university’s biology department graciously donated the supplies and plants needed for the greenwall and provided advice on which plants species would thrive in the harsh conditions of the greenwall. The Mississippi Watershed District supplied the grant funding for the project and donated shrubs and trees for the bioswale.

Kristine and Brittany will continue working with the café this coming year to vegetate additional gardens with native plants. They will also invite local artists to participate in a mural contest for the cistern and adjacent retaining wall. The winning mural will not only beautify the space but educate café patrons about the patio BMPs, as well.

Tangletown Water Festival

Kristine and Brittany worked on the BMP for the café and completed 60 hours of coursework as part of their efforts to receive master water steward certificates from the MN Fresh Water Society. The last requirement for the certificate was coordinating an outreach event to engage and educate their community on clean and safe water practices. So, in collaboration with the local Tangletown Neighborhood Association, Kristine and Brittany put on a Water Festival to complete the education component of the certificate program.

The event included volunteer leaf raking to clear street gutters and grates for rainwater as well as exhibits and games to teach the community about simple home practices to improve their water resource management. More than 100 people participated in the festival, including the Washburn High School Green Team and multiple government agencies. Joe Fox, an engineer in our environmental team, attended to represent Westwood and helped with educating the community.

Kristine is no stranger to good water management and clean practices, however she said this experience helped her to “better engage with and communicate water issues to the public.”  To maintain her certificate, Kristine will continue to volunteer every year in support of the Mississippi Watershed District, helping to educate the community and share the knowledge she gained through the program. And because of her help, patrons can sample the café’s monstrously-sized cookies on a dry and water-quality friendly patio!