UCSD Rady School Phase II
MWS Linear – Commercial Application


The University of California, San Diego’s section of La Jolla Beach is enjoying some tender loving care and advanced environmental systems that have put it in great shape as the community and wildlife plunge into summer. Designated by California’s State Water Resource Control Board as an “area of special biological significance”, this particular coastline demands gentle hands and a higher level of consideration. Any discharge is completely prohibited and the areas are actively monitored for any signs of negligence or hazards. University of California San Diego (UCSD) has met these challenges head on with proactive, innovative, and organized systems of proven pollution prevention. Beach and ocean contaminants that would otherwise originate from their property as stormwater and dry-weather runoff are being addressed and reduced by their Environmental Affairs Department. Each runoff category is known to contain high concentrations of oils & grease, trash, sediment, and bacteria, but these contaminants can be managed with a variety of media filters that are changing the way society combats river, lake, and ocean pollution.

The largest media filters, half-mooned shaped and located right along the beach bluff are working and hiding in plain sight. Each poses as the final line of defense against any remaining pollutants before entering the ocean. These large media filters may be the most well understood and recognizable tool UCSD is employing, but there is a cast of systems in the university’s inventory successfully combining to give UCSD award winning and exemplary status.

According to Chiara Clemente, senior environmental scientist with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board, “I’m most impressed with the comprehensive approach on all fronts to eliminate dry-weather water runoff and the pollution from stormwater runoff.”

As of 2011, the UCSD Stormwater Management Plan has addressed the reduction of discharged pollutants through effectively controlled and treated stormwater and dry-weather runoff. There are a number of categories and settings for different Best Management Practices (BMPs): Construction and post-construction sites, and structural and non-structural, but regardless of the location and design all efforts exist to eliminate flow and contamination issues that overwhelm most water bodies and coastlines.


In the structural stormwater treatment category, which can significantly reduce pollutants such as oils & grease, trash, pesticides, nutrients, bacteria, metals, and Total Suspended Solids (TSS), UCSD has employed over a dozen different systems. These systems include BMPs that target the listed pollutants as well as many others. Modular Wetland Systems, a San Diego based environmental company, is a proud supplier whose Modular Wetlands System Linear (MWS Linear)  is successfully contributing measurable levels of treatment and control of stormwater runoff at the newly completed Rady School of Management.

“We are very proud to be a part of the success of UCSD’s plan, and with each BMP and Modular Wetlands System [Linear] they have wisely invested in the preservation of local resources, wildlife, and the beauty of our environment”, says Zach Kent, Stormwater Engineer.

Modular Wetlands Installation

The MWS Linear combines the natural processes found in nature with innovative designs and technologies that have successfully contributed to the advancement of a green industry. The MWS Linear is a biofilter that incorporates screening, hydrodynamic separation, sorptive media filtration, and bioretention into a single system. It is an especially accredited and versatile biofilter, the only one to utilize horizontal flow. Zach Kent explains, “Picture a one-dimensional biofilter system treating water as it flows downward. Its treatment rate is limited by the flow direction as speed and filter surface are fixed. Now picture a biofilter cube with 4-times the surface area. Within a treatment chamber it can occupy the same amount of working space but treat 4-times the amount of water and at a more controlled and efficient flow rate” – a principle that helped the MWS Linear achieve Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) approval. A distinction widely regarded by other states and often adopted as their own benchmark for acceptable stormwater treatment technologies.

“In 2009, the university completed its $4.9 million dollar water-pollution-control project and the San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter of the American Public Works Association and the San Diego-area chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the university’s project with the 2011 ‘Project of the Year’ and ‘Outstanding Award”.² Gary C. Matthews, vice chancellor of Resource Management and Planning, continued to say “The award winning design developed for the Scripps area can also be applied to future campus projects to both reduce dry-weather runoff and more effectively and efficiently treat any stormwater that leaves the campus.”

Most beach goers and wildlife enthusiasts agree and all hope these successful strategies and efforts can be adopted by future developers and institutions.