Florida is known as the Sunshine State. In fact, it rains a lot here. The annual rainfall amounts range from 40 to 60 inches depending on the location (Florida Climate Center. 2016), which in turns generates a lot stormwater runoff. When it rains, some rainwater is absorbed by plants and soil. Some, however, hits impervious surfaces like paved streets, building rooftops, parking lots, and does not soak into the ground. For example, a 2000 square-foot roof and driveway can generate between 50,000 to 75,000 gallons of stormwater runoff annually. As stormwater travels, it can pick up pollutants such as trash, chemicals, oil, or nutrients found along its way. It can harm our rivers, streams, lakes, and coastal waters.
In this Water Wednesday webinar, the Water Agent in Marion County, Gabriel Vicari gave us some tips on being a good stormwater neighbor.
What are traditional stormwater management practices?
Engineers have been using stormwater infrastructure to protect urban and sub-urban areas from flooding by redirecting stormwater to local surface water bodies or using infiltration basins to collect this water and encourage it to infiltrate into the ground.
At first, this seems like a great use of this excess water. Infiltration can help restore our drinking water supplies. Sending water to our local water bodies can help sustain wildlife, restore decreased flows, and support recreational activities. Unfortunately, the further this water travels, the more opportunity it has to pick up urban contaminants.
Urban contaminants consist of turf fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, vehicular waste, bacteria, and even trash that can be carried long distances. These contaminants eventually reach our rivers, lakes, streams, and groundwater via stormwater infrastructure.
With this in mind, what can individual homeowners do to protect our local water resources from these contaminants?
Use our landscapes to manage rainfall at the source!
Instead of directing runoff onto our neighbors’ properties or into the stormwater systems, we can use various techniques to trap and store stormwater onsite. These techniques encourage infiltration into the ground before the water has the opportunity to collect pollutants.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) as “a range of measures that use plant or soil systems, permeable surfaces or substrates, stormwater harvest and reuse, or landscaping to store, infiltrate, or evapotranspirate stormwater and reduce flow to sewer systems or to surface waters.” These measures are designed into the community at different scales. On a large scale, you might see an entire downtown area redesigned with green spaces, permeable pavement, and even bioswales meant to replace storm sewers. On a smaller scale, rain barrels and cisterns could be used to capture and reuse rainwater. Another option would be redirecting your downspout into a rain garden with gravel, soils, and native plants that store and treat stormwater while providing a habitat for wildlife.
Water Wednesday webinar recording: How Can I Be A Good Stormwater Neighbor
Watch the recording below to learn more about applying these practices on a residential scale!
- The U.S. EPA Green Infrastructure: https://www.epa.gov/green-infrastructure
- Florida Department of Environmental Protection Green Stormwater Infrastructure: https://gsi.floridadep.gov/
- UF/IFAS Stormwater Management: https://programs.ifas.ufl.edu/shed/research/stormwater/