Plenty of room for carbon on the ground: Potential applications of biochar for stormwater treatment

Sanjay K. Mohanty, Renan Valenca, Alexander W. Berger, Iris K.M. Yu, Xinni Xiong, Trenton M. Saunders, Daniel C.W. Tsang

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

156 Citations (Scopus)


Low impact development (LID) systems are increasingly used to manage stormwater, but they have limited capacity to treat stormwater—a resource to supplement existing water supply in water-stressed urban areas. To enhance their pollutant removal capacity, infiltration-based LID systems can be augmented with natural or engineered geomedia that meet the following criteria: they should be economical, readily available, and have capacity to remove a wide range of stormwater pollutants in conditions expected during intermittent infiltration of stormwater. Biochar, a carbonaceous porous co-product of waste biomass pyrolysis/gasification, meets all these criteria. Biochar can adsorb pollutants, improve water-retention capacity of soil, retain and slowly release nutrients for plant uptake, and help sustain microbiota in soil and plants atop; all these attributes could help improve removal of contaminants in stormwater treatment systems. This article discusses contaminant removal mechanisms by biochar, summarizes specific biochar properties that enhance targeted contaminants removal from stormwater, and identifies challenges and opportunities to retrofit biochar in LID to optimize stormwater treatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1644-1658
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018


  • Engineered biochar
  • Green infrastructure
  • Stormwater pollutants
  • Sustainable drainage system
  • Urban water
  • Water resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Plenty of room for carbon on the ground: Potential applications of biochar for stormwater treatment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this