When looking for the people most knowledgeable about stormwater in Pittsburg, the search may now have to start with a group of Pittsburg State University students.

When looking for the people most knowledgeable about stormwater in Pittsburg, the search may now have to start with a group of Pittsburg State University students.
Through a Kansas State University pass-through grant program called Water Link, about 13 students spent the last semester studying Pittsburg’s stormwater system. Jim Triplett, PSU biology professor, called the project “a winner” for the way it involved students and their areas of study.
“The students are learning a new area, and they are able to apply some of the skills they’ve learned in their respective educational programs toward solving a real-life problem,” Triplett said. “So it was a way to involve students while providing some academic value.”
The project involved three academic disciplines, with five biology students helping to study the stormwater, five communications students helping to design logos and other informational materials and three geography students helping to map out the stormwater system.
The result was a package and Powerpoint shown to Pittsburg City Commissioners Tuesday night, including a map of half the city’s stormwater system, diagrams showing stormwater flow levels and materials encouraging people to keep up with sound stormwater practices, like not putting leaves and clippings in storm drains.
“I think the community awareness is a big part of it,” said Commissioner Marty Beezley. “I’ve seen some people walk with their blower half a block to put their clippings in the drains.”
But the project did have its challenges. For one, Triplett said the group was hindered by a late decision on the grant award — by the time the university found out about it, the second semester had already started and group members’ schedules were filled up.
“It was pretty much impossible to find a common time to get all the folks together at once,” Triplett said.
That also made it difficult for the whole group to meet with the city about the project’s progress, a part that Triplett called “integral” to the process. Triplett was also only able to use about a fifth of the grant, which was for $5,000.
“Overall, I was pretty happy with the results, given the time we had to do it,” Triplett said. “I was flabbergasted and pleased that we were able to get that many students to help.”
But even with the successes, Triplett said the project was unfinished, something he said he hopes to remedy if the program will be funded again in the fall. Half the city still needs mapping and diagramming, and he said a future group could also help to produce a brochure to give to people with important stormwater information.
“This was our first effort at it, and I hope the Water Link program was as pleased as we were,” Triplett said. “Hopefully, they’ll be pleased enough to fund us next fall.”