In Florida’s natural environment, rain can fall onto vegetated land and slowly filter down into the soil. Eventually, this water reaches the water table and can make its way into our groundwater supplies. This is how rain is treated by the natural process and eventually recharges our drinking water supplies.
Rain that falls on hard and impervious surfaces can’t seep into the ground and, instead, runs off into surface waters or onto nearby lands. This rainfall, or stormwater, runoff carries pollutants and contaminants, such as oil, heavy metals, pesticides and fertilizers into our waterways. Additionally, stormwater runoff that can’t percolate down into the ground increases the likelihood of flooding, redirects potential drinking water into local waterways, and can cause loss of habitat due to erosion.
Urban areas throughout Florida and in Broward County have experienced the impacts of increased stormwater runoff associated with large amounts of paved areas.
But there is something that we can all do to protect our waterways and our drinking water supply.
Homeowners can take simple measures to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of stormwater runoff from their properties. Swale areas separating sidewalks from roads should be maintained with a soft contour, allowing the collection of runoff from the property. Water collected in the swale is then provided water quality treatment as it slowly percolates through the soil and recharges the aquifer. Walkways created with mulch and pavers, in lieu of pavement, will also reduce runoff and promote aquifer recharge.
Rain gardens help capture and store rainwater. These planted depressions absorb rainwater from impervious surfaces, such as roofs, driveways, walkways and turf areas. Once captured, the stormwater slowly seeps into the ground, instead of flowing into storm drains and surface waters. Some rain gardens reduce pollution flow into waterways by as much as 30 percent.
Rain barrels can also be used to capture and store rainwater. These barrels are positioned at the bottom of rain gutter downspouts to capture rainwater from a home’s roof. The water is then stored for later outdoor use, such as irrigation, car washing or hand watering of plants.
Incorporating native plants into your landscape is an important strategy for improving stormwater management, as well. Native plant beds create a natural environment in which rainwater can percolate down into the ground or slowly move into a water harvesting area, such as a rain garden or pond. Native plants are also specially adapted to Florida’s wet and dry seasons so they use less water, require less fertilizer, and provide habitat for native wildlife.
Existing residential sites often make excellent candidates for the incorporation of green infrastructure elements through the stormwater retrofit process. Please see the Design Features pages for details about green infrastructure practices and the Retrofit Page for further information.
Green technologies for integrating stormwater management on urban/ suburban single-family home sites:
- Naturescape with native vegetation to reduce water and fertilizer use
- Cisterns/Rain Barrels
- Rain Gardens
Native plants require less fertilizer and less watering because they are adapted to the climate of the region. Courtesy of SWFWMD
This rain garden absorbs and filters rainwater while adding natural beauty to the property. Courtesy of Fred Rozumalski, Barr Engineering